by Guest Contributor Seattle Slim, originally published at Happy Nappy Head
You already know I was hesitant to get my hopes up, and that hesitation was warranted.
I am not one to complain about any and everything. However, as someone who would’ve sold my little brother and my first born child for the newest Barbie when I was a wee lass, I expected Mattel to come better than this. You know why? Because I know they can do better.
When I was about 13 years old, my mom bought me Barbie’s special edition Kenyan Barbie from their their Dolls Around the World collection. My mom didn’t give a damn what I did with the other “chocolate” covered Barbies. She cared about this one, and she was and still is prized. She was the first Barbie doll that I felt accurately reflected my features and aesthetics. Sure, I had black and white Barbies, but they all looked like the white Barbies, except for her.
Trichelle (pictured above) is the one doll that has what could be considered natural black hair, but they couldn’t keep it going, and changed her eye color to hazel and lightened her skin.
Grace and her sister (above) look good, but then again, their eyes indicate that they are somehow mixed with something, adding to their not quite black “otherness.”
This is why I am glad I have boys, although, the situation sucks for them too, because Batman, Superman, and all the other “toy men” don’t usually look like them.
Mattel, you disappoint me. What was wrong with giving these dolls from your S.I.S line natural hair, dark brown eyes, and features that fit with most of the particular demographic, black girls, that you are looking to cater to?
If you guys think that these dolls don’t mean shit, might I kindly ask you to check out the Doll test?
You should not be lauded for this, Mattel. I appreciate you thinking of us and all, but you dropped the ball on this.
Even if you wanted to keep these dolls, that’s fine. I’ve already described my grandfather and family history here. Where is MY doll? Where is the doll with the Afro? Where is the doll with twists? Where’s the doll with the lowboy? Where’s the doll with the dark brown eyes, and the flatter nose, and the voluptuous lips? Where’s the doll that has all of those things, not just some? Where’s the doll for little girls that look like me?
Let me be more clear, these dolls (except for Kara’s crazy lace front) are not terrible. I think they are actually perfect for little girls who have a mixed background. These pretty much cover a broad aesthetic and look like plausibly like someone with mixed heritage. In that respect, these dolls are perfect!
However, for the little black girls that look just like ME with unmistakably Afrocentric features, these dolls appeal to the tried and totally untrue, but respected, hip-hop beauty ideal that has become an “exotic girls only” industrial complex. So not only are young girls bombarded with those images on television, if their parents aren’t careful, they are basically kicked while they’re down walking through the toy store.
The message is clear to little girls, and it’s saddening because they will go on to feel this more acutely as they get older. The message is unless you are “exotic” or multi-racial, you are simply and utterly unremarkable, unworthy and unimportant. They may make a doll with more Afrocentric features, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Little girls will then inevitably draw conclusions that they are not good enough, because they are not pretty enough. You must be multi-racial (or have some indication that you have some “white” or “Cherokee” in your family), with light eyes and long flowing, loose-curly (3A) hair as a minimum.
Should Mattel somehow make things right, I implore them to give said black Barbie, NATURAL hair. Yes, I said it.
For years, before I gave in and begged my mother to relax my tresses, I would comb my Barbies’ hair and covet the hell out of their plastic hair plugs. Hell, it was long and flowing and straight.
Barbie=Beautiful, so therefore, Barbie’s Hair=Beautiful was my equation.
I imagined that my hair, if “treated,” could grow long and semi-wavy, but kink-less, and I would be one step closer to being a Barbie, in my own right.
What was wrong with creating a Barbie with short, as close to natural hair as possible? Hell, if short is not your thing (and I know you can do it, because you have hairstylists for Barbies, Mattel), then why not a natural mane on, say for example, Kara?
Black women’s hair does not normally grow, or look, like one of Tyra’s gaudy lace fronts. Matter of fact, what I’ve seen in Seattle is anything but long and flowing, but rather, short, fried, sad and barely hanging on to scrunchies and hair bands. It is usually thin, with little volume, even if it may be long. I’ve seen weaves, I’ve seen braids with all kinds of colors. I’ve seen sisters with natural hair, like blowouts, cornrows, teenie weenie Afros (TWAs), locs, twists… The point is I have yet to walk down the street seeing black women, all sporting the same tired, ghastly, and patently unnatural weave or wig.
Do you even know what Kara would look like if she were a real human being?
I’m a firm believer in that indoctrination can bring whole groups of people and civilizations to their knees. These dolls are just one more tool in the indoctrination process that prizes and rewards self-hatred over knowledge of self, and love for self, in the black community.
Shame on you, Mattel. By intentionally leaving out a Barbie with natural Afrocentric features, you’ve basically given little black
girls who don’t match a multi-racial aesthetic in the least, a figurative middle finger. Congratulations!
Barbie cannot have a flatter nose, Barbie cannot have natural hair, and she damned sure cannot have short, natural hair (GASP!). Barbie shall not be too ethnic, that’s not hot in these toy store “streets” I guess. For Barbie to be pretty, she cannot be too black. For Barbie to be feminine, her hair must not give any inclination that it might be “nappy.” God forbid, she have shorter hair than her “down to her back” tresses… That would make her a boy, I guess…
I urge parents to not fall for this, and urge you to not accept anything below the standard, because these dolls are way below
standard. Mattel has been around too damned long to put these dolls out, oblivious to the message they send. They are trying to get on the right track, but they need a hell of a lot more work to get to the goal of having fully inclusive black Barbies.
Again, we come in many shades and colors, with a plethora of features, but I seriously question Mattel’s motives for “excluding” a certain shade, with certain features.
Not GOOD enough, Mattel. Sorry to break it to you.
(Source and photos spotted at HipHopWired)
About This BlogRacialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable
Keanu ReevesJohn Cho newsflashes.
Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at email@example.com.
The founders of Racialicious are Carmen Sognonvi and Jen Chau. They are no longer with the blog. Carmen now runs Urban Martial Arts with her husband and blogs about local business. Jen can still be found at Swirl or on her personal blog. Please do not send them emails here, they are no longer affiliated with this blog.
Comments on this blog are moderated. Please read our comment moderation policy.
Use the "for:racialicious" tag in del.icio.us to send us tips. See here for detailed instructions.
Interested in writing for us? Check out our submissions guidelines.
Follow Us on Twitter!
- 7thangel on True Blood Recap 6.1: “Who Are You, Really?”
- Pumpkin on Why Can’t Black Women Claim Sluttiness, Again?
- Clara on True Blood Recap 6.1: “Who Are You, Really?”
- nicthommi on True Blood Recap 6.1: “Who Are You, Really?”
- Kristen on Quoted: The problem with “Devious Maids” goes far beyond Hollywood
- Quoted: The problem with “Devious Maids” goes far beyond Hollywood
- Open Thread: Kanye West and Yeezus
- True Blood Recap 6.1: “Who Are You, Really?”
- Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Jose Antonio Vargas’ Documented
- Retrolicious–Mad Men 6.11: “Favors”
- Why Can’t Black Women Claim Sluttiness, Again?
- Open Thread: A Tale Of Two (Racialized) Spoofs
- Quoted: Mark Anthony Neal On Black Dads On TV
TagsABC activism advertising african-american asian asian-american barack obama black blackface celebrities comedy culture diversity fashion feminism film gender glbt HBO hip hop hispanic history hollywood identity international interracial relationships latino media mixed race movies music muslim politics race racial stereotypes racism religion sex sexism sexual stereotypes stereotypes tv Uncategorized white youtube