When my husband and I began the adoption process we agreed to be open to a child of any race. I read the adoption magazines and books about being a trans racial family. I knew something that was important was that my child have toys/dolls that looked like him or her. This brought me back to my childhood issues with this.
As a brown haired, brown eyed girl in the 70’s I remember wondering why all the dolls and Disney princesses had blue eyes and blonde hair, with the exception of Snow White (Belle didn’t come out until I was an adult!). I distinctly remember feeling sad and left out when I couldn’t find a doll with my hair and eyes.
As I grew up and became an adult, it just annoyed me that that was the case.
At the start of our adoption process, in 2007, I assumed that this would no longer be the case with society’s understanding of diversity now. I didn’t buy any dolls since I didn’t know what race child we would have.
When our daughter was born in 2009, half Asian and half African-American, I began my search. My daughter looks way more Asian than anything, a slight kinkiness in her hair is the only sign of her African-American heritage. I decided to buy toys and dolls that had black hair, brown eyes and light brown skin, like her (side note: I’m finding a lot of dolls marked “Hispanic” actually match her appearance!).
I set out thinking it would be easy.
Toys R Us yielded many dolls of the blue eyed, blond hair variety and maybe one or two that were clearly African-American with very dark skin. Sometimes in the back would be a lone Hispanic doll. This puzzled me.
“Really?” I thought, “in 2009?”
After two years of dealing with this, I’ve gone from angry and annoyed to just plain bewildered. Why is it this way? Why have toy companies decided that blond/blue eyed is the best, prettiest doll? I’m truly curious how this came to be and why it still persists considering how rare that combination is naturally (not those who get it from a bottle or contacts). I’d get excited when I saw the gleam of a brown haired doll, but it inevitably would have blue eyes.
I remember when Mulan came out there was happiness at finally having an Asian princess; and last year when The Princess and the Frog (and Princess Tiana) came out I was overjoyed to finally have an African-American princess-as was a large part of the world (it was about time, Disney!).
My daughter today has a variety of dolls: some with blond hair, some with brown, some black. Some blue eyed dolls, some brown. She even has a red haired doll. She plays with them all, but she only calls the ones that look like her by her name (when she’s playing mommy/house for example). She also likes Snow White because it has black hair and brown eyes like her.
I know she’s still to young to care that every single doll in her doll house has…you guessed it…blond hair and blue eyes. But one day she will care. And what will I say then?
This is an original post for Jersey Moms Blog by JerseyFresh, aka Annie, a New Jersey mom.
Photo credit given to Barbie Coloring Pages.