Holiday Toy Shopping: Representation Matters

I took a Sociology class last year that investigated the correlation between dolls and racism. The study revealed a preference for the white doll among all children, internalized racism and self-hatred in African-American children, likely the result of segregation.

elfTaking a trip down the toy aisle of any major retail store, you will find a distinct difference between the availability of white dolls in comparison to brown dolls. Privilege. I went shopping for an Elf on the Shelf, a popular Christmas tradition for young children to be on their best behavior, in San Marcos, CA. I searched three different stores in my neighborhood for a brown Elf before being told that they are only manufactured in white. Privilege.

I couldn’t believe that I was experiencing white privilege while toy shopping. The sales associate tried to brush me off until I demanded he check the inventory for stores within a 15 mile radius.  I also suggested that he not offer information that he was unsure of. I had already checked online and knew for a fact that the brown option was available.

princess

Last year, I was shopping online to take advantage of Cyber Monday deals. As a mother of a little girl, I was super excited to find that Target had a Disney Princess 7-pack of dolls on sale. At first glance, I noticed that Princess Tiana was not in the group. Bummer. Then, I realized that ALL of the ethnic princess were noticeably absent from the 7 pack of dolls-major deal breaker. Privilege. Why does toy shopping for minorities mean not inclusive?

I searched Target’s website today and only found a $99 Shimmering Dreams collection of Disney Princesses. However, Walmart still has the original gift set. I did complain last year and posted my dissatisfaction to all of my social media accounts, encouraging my friends to do the same. I’m not sure if it helped or if Target simply discontinued the product. Either way, I look forward to a day where all of our children can feel important and represented.

Target is not the problem, it’s Disney that I had an issue with. It’s bad enough that it took so long for them to make a movie about a Black princess (I’m not even going to get into the horrible story line). I found it strange that the set included Elsa, although Frozen was released four years after The Princess & the Frog. Privilege.

Disney has recently announced their newest Princess, Moana, a Pacific Islander. I’m waiting to see if she will make the cut for the classic gift sets this year. My guess is that it’s highly unlikely.

Barbie is guilty of this as well. Their white dolls are usually adorned with all sorts of accessories and come in different careers/characters. For black dolls, selections are already extremely limited and depending on the area you shop in its worse. Upscale shopping areas will have more white dolls available.

White privilege is being able to go shopping for your children and not worry about finding suitable toys that represent your family whether it’s skin color or hair type. White privilege is being able to shop at upscale stores without possibly limiting your purchase options. White privilege is always having toys that portray your race as the norm..

This topic may seem insignificant to the average American without children. However, it represents a larger problem within society. Representation matters for all children. I know that it’s not completely up to toy manufacturers for children to be comfortable in their own skin, but it can certainly help. Body image is another thing that must be tackled to do away with perfection, but that’s an entirely different argument for another day.

I want my children to choose the toys that closely resembles their own skin. Thankfully, my son loved hot wheels and was never into action figures because that would have been an issue for me, too. I want my daughter to feel that black Barbie and baby dolls are just as beautiful as the white dolls. I wish I can go back and undo the time I had to encourage my four-year old daughter to embrace her curly black hair and not feel ostracized because all of her classmates and their dolls have straight blonde hair. Heck, I just want my daughter’s brown skin to finally be normalized.

Signed,

A Fed Up Mama

 

*Sound off in the comments section and let me know about your experiences with toy shopping this season. Thank you, for reading. <3