Sunday, August 12, 2007

Why Polly Pocket Doesn't Have Black Friends

*I'm publishing the draft because I won't have time to revise soon*

In 2007 Polly Pocket wanted to "revolutionize" the girl-toy market:

"Polly Pocket(TM) Polly Wheels(TM) Cars � Polly Pocket(TM) makes a HUGE statement with the first ever die-cast vehicles designed just for girls!"

But they left girls of color behind.

Dawn writes about her dilemma here: it's easy for us to vote with our own dollars and to gatekeep for little ones, to surround them with dolls of color and the occasional Caucasian doll until they develop an interest in a line less inclusive, and until someone else is doing the purchasing.

An aa friend insisted after the "brown Cinderella incident" -- "that NOT Cinderella! I no yike her!!!" -- that I cannot prevent this from happening, either the having or the temporary preferring, and that I cannot take away the white dolls purchased by other people. I can't make my daughter not want dolls that don't look like her and, according to my friend, I can't make her like
dolls who do. Said friend recalls getting a black Barbie for Christmas when she was three. She cried because she didn't get "Real Barbie." (As an aside, this friend has turned into a feminist activist and the smartest person I know about just about everything, including race, so I'm hopeful).

Fine, but why can't we MAKE Mattel make African American Polly Pockets?

Something is very wrong when a seller describes "Shani" as "African American or Hispanic Polly Pocket." Something is even more wrong when a search for another POC PP turns up "Postcard Series" Japanese and Chinese Polly Pocket globetrotting pals. Now that's cosmopolitanism.

In their defense, the Loving Family line offers choices (and because they come two family members to a set, can be combined creatively). The success of Mattel's Snap n Style dolls should indicate to that there is a ready market for clothing-changing dolls in several skin tones. And the Polly Pocket aisle was crowded with aa moms and daughters last night.

Black girls are expected to imagine themselves into little plastic white girls in the way that the movie industry operates on the notion that young women (and later, adult female fans of action films) can imagine themselves into male heroes but the reverse is not expected. We need to change that/those expectations.

While I'm not a fan of dolls that actually teach consumerism so explicitly (Polly has a gazillion outfits! Polly owns a bus!!! Be like Polly and own a gazillion outfits and a bus!!) my daughter is, and at the least, they could offer one that looks like her.

It's past time Polly Pocket had a black friend. I just hope Miss I doesn't outgrow Tamara before they make her.

As I was writing this, my daughter saw a commercial for Barbie Models and yelled "Look, there's my MOM!" If it isn't about race, I can't imagine what that's about.


Patti said...

Please visit to view Makeda,® The Queen of Sheba Doll, who represents the first woman leader of Ethiopia. She comes with a book and a CD narration that tell of her rise to the throne and her journey to visit King Solomon. The co-founders, two Ethiopian born women, took great pains to make Queen Makeda authentic. The fabric for her dress was hand-woven by artisans in Ethiopia and represents attire still worn today, and her neck tattoo is also an adornment worn today by Ethiopian women.

Dawn said...

Abebech, I linked this post on my post this morning! :D

Lorraine said...

oh, I never know the etiquette . . . but I remember reading something about "stopping in to say hello on a blog before linking to someone" . . . at any rate, I linked to Dawn's post that linked to yours, and also to yours . . . (it will show up after midnight on Saturday because Sunday is my day for this topic)

at any rate, I do hope you will forgive my blogging tackiness, if I am indeed breaking some rule of blogger etiquette. And I am looking forward to reading more of your blog!

abebech said...

Hi Lorraine, and welcome! (and you're welcome to link).