I gave my son a lavishly illustrated edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for his fourth birthday, and it did not take very long for me to realize that this was a gift for me, not for him. As Alice engaged in repartee with a dodo early in the book, my son became bored. Alice’s bewilderment and disorientation, which I had anticipated might speak to my son’s experience of being a child in an adult’s world, spoke instead to my own experience navigating the world of information. Being lost in Wonderland is what it feels like to learn about an unfamiliar subject, and research is inevitably a rabbit hole. I fell down it, in my investigation of immunization, and fell and fell, finding that it was much deeper than I anticipated. Like Alice, I fell past shelves full of books, more than I could ever read. Like Alice, I arrived at locked doors. “Drink me,” I was commanded by one source. “Eat me,” I was told by another. They had opposite effects - I grew and shrank, I believed and did not believe. I cried and then found myself swimming in my own own tears.
In the past few decades quite a few people have suggested -- citing most often the offence of impossible proportions -- that Barbie dolls teach young girls to hate themselves. But the opposite may be true. British researchers recently found that girls between the ages of seven and eleven harbor surprisingly strong feelings of dislike for their Barbie dolls, with no other toy or brand name inspiring such a negative response from the children. The dolls "provoked rejection, hatred, and violence" and many girls preferred Barbie torture -- by cutting, burning, decapitating, or microwaving -- over other ways of playing with the doll. Reasons that the girls hated their Barbies included, somewhat poetically, the fact that they were 'plastic.' The researchers also noted that the girls never spoke of one single, special Barbie, but tended to talk about having a box full of anonymous Barbies. 'On a deeper level Barbie has become inanimate,' one of the researchers remarked. 'She has lost any individual warmth that she might have possessed if she were perceived as a singular person. This may go some way towards explaining the violence and torture.