Wednesday, November 17, 2010

White Baby Dolls

Baby dolls found in my local Chinese toy store.

The manager of the classroom building who lives in a tiny narrow room under the stairwell often has his grand-daughter with him.  She is a serious, shy girl who rarely smiles as she plays on the ground floor as I go to and from class.  The other day she was the cutest three year old loving mother cradling her blond haired blue-eyed baby doll.

In Africa, if a child was so lucky to have a baby doll, it was usually created from corn husks or was a store bought white one.

Do white baby dolls dominate the world doll market?  If so, why?

When I was seven or eight for my birthday my parents special ordered a Chinese baby doll from a woman who sewed by hand babies from around the world. They got both me and my brother one, a doll with slanted eyes, white skin, and a tuff of black hair. Many of my dolls though were given to me by my grandmothers.  One gave me a collection of Barbie dolls much to the dismay of my mother who did not think these full figured, skinny, long legged blond haired women were appropriate for a girl of six.  My other grandma stood for hours in a long line to purchase an orange haired Cabbage Patch doll with pig-tails.  They even bought my brother a boy one.  My aunt on the other hand sent me an awesome Christmas present, a Chinese doll with black silky shoulder length hair, blinking eyes and handmade clothes.

However, I am not sure if as a kid I was particularly aware of the race of my dolls.  What mattered most to me was what could the doll do? What accessories did the doll have?  Did it have pretty clothes, bottles, a backpack that it could be carried around in?  Could it drink a bottle of water then wet a diaper?  Could it cry and blink its eyes?  Could it say Mama?  Was it life-size?  Was it heavy like a real baby?  Could it walk?

As little girls does it matter if we play with dolls that look like us?  Is it important to play with a diverse group of dolls with different skin colors, eyes and hair?  Even though it may only be a subconscious message that little children are unaware of, white dolls are a message, "White is beautiful."

Discussing the quote by Martin Luther King "We must learn to live together as brothers and sisters or perish as fools," a student in the English short story class wrote in her essay, "As we all know everyone likes beauty.  If there is possibility each one would like to be white skin."

According to an American study done fifty years ago by a psychologist Kenneth Clark, black girls chose white dolls over black dolls.  In 2005 a young American teen filmmaker, Kiri Davis also showed that this was true today.  Are girls' viewpoints about beauty influenced by the dolls they play with or by media images?  Maybe the domination of white dolls in the doll market across the world is just a result of the bombardment of media images.  White is beautiful; therefore, white baby dolls are preferred and will sell.  Even in a country of a billion Chinese people, the toy stores carry white baby dolls, very few are Chinese ones.

1 comment:

ieva said...

Very interesting comment. I had not thought about such a problem before. Normally the doll market (like any other) should follow the society demand. But it's not the secret that today's market is damaged.