A Doll Like Me
(originally written for Everything2.com)"Then Ellen said, in a small voice, "Do you like dolls with yellow hair?"
Now it happened that Elizabeth Ann had very positive convictions on this point which she had never spoken of, because Aunt Frances didn't really care about dolls. She only pretended to, to be company for her niece.
"No, I don't!" answered the little girl emphatically. "I get just sick and tired of always seeing them with that old, bright yellow hair! I like them to have brown hair, just the way most little girls do!"
Ellen lifted her eyes and smiled radiantly. "Oh, so do I!" she said.
Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Understood Betsy, 1917.
It's been around a long time, this prejudice for blonde dolls. Why is it that even now in the age of promoting self-esteem in kids, the first version of any girls' doll to come out in the U.S. is almost invariably a blonde Caucasian? The next one to come out will often be black, and then comes the Hispanic and and Asian and redheaded Caucasian ones, but you barely see brunette dolls.
I have nothing against any of these dolls' existence. My little half-sister is blonde and loves her Barbies, loves Kirsten, the Swedish immigrant in the American Girl doll series. I understand that girls who aren't Caucasian want dolls who look like them too. (Knowing my own frustration with the lack of brown-haired dolls, I can imagine what it was like in days when you couldn't find a nonwhite doll on the shelves in the U.S. -- there weren't nearly as many as there are now in the 1970s and early 1980s when I was the age to play with dolls.)
But I remember playing with "Sweet Roses P.J.," who was just about the only brunette in the Barbie line available at the time (and the only one I kept throughout adolescence). She didn't even have the tan that blonde Barbies have, so she looked like bookworm me who didn't go out in the sun if it could be avoided. (There's nothing like her out now except in the grown-up collector's edition Barbies -- in the kids' dolls, all the brunettes are Hispanic Teresa, or Kira, who sometimes seems to have east Asian eyes and sometimes doesn't.) I made P.J. queen over the blonde Barbies; she got to order them around and put them in prison and such. This is what you get from a child who feels like they aren't represented.
I believe in diversity. But when there is an emphasis on diversity, you feel even more left out if you're not shown with everyone else.
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