WHY THE FUCK DOES SHE HAVE TO BE SO GODDAMN FAIR SKINNED? MOST SOUTH ASIAN PEOPLE ARE NOT THIS PALE.
AND IT’S FINE IF YOU’RE PALER SKINNED. I AM ACTUALLY ON THE FAIRER SIDE MYSELF. BUT WHY DOES THIS DOLL CREATE THIS FALSE IDEAL FOR YOUNG GIRLS WHO ARE PROBABLY NOT AS FAIR? WHY THE FUCK CAN’T SHE BE DARKER SKINNED SO THAT LITTLE SOUTH ASIAN GIRLS CAN IDENTIFY WITH SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL AND FEEL BEAUTIFUL INSTEAD OF FORCED INTO THINKING THEY’RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH?
I’M PRETTY SURE THAT THIS IS THE ONLY COLOR OPTION ON THIS DOLL. SHE DOESN’T COME IN ANY OTHER SHADE THAN ‘ASHWAIRYA RAI EURO-CENTRIC WITH LIGHT EYES’.
DO YOU KNOW WHY THE FUCK PRODUCTS LIKE FAIR AND LOVELY EXIST?
BECAUSE OF THIS DOLL. BECAUSE OF THIS FUCKING DOLL.
Okay, Kiskolee is done. Gah. Just. THIS ANGERS ME SO MUCH.
I wanted to bold the important parts, but realised I’d be bolding all the commentary. So yeah.
Mattel just unveiled its newest collection of Barbies: the So in Style (S.I.S.) collection. Created by an African-American designer, the dolls are meant to be more culturally relevant to young multi-ethnic girls in their fashions, facial features and hairstyles with inspiring hobbies.
“I want them to be examples to real girls,” says Mattel designer Stacey McBride-Irby.
The dolls come in pairs with a big and little sister to encourage mentoring relationships. While we applaud the cute dolls – Grace and Courtney, Kara and Kiana and Trichelle and Janessa – most still look like a darker shade of Barbie. Only one of the three adult dolls, Kara, has natural hair, while the other two sport long, stick-straight ‘dos. And out of the three little sisters, only one has a textured style – afro puffs – while the rest have straighter styles.
Barbie has come along way since she first was conceived 50 years ago by Ruth Handler, who founded Mattel in 1944 with husband, Elliot and Harold “Matt” Matson. Handler was bucking a post-World War II trend of paper dolls and baby dolls by creating a fashion doll, whcih she named after her daughter, Barbara.
The early Barbie’s measurements were unattainable. In 1989, a Barbie Liberation Organization was formed by a group of activists who objected to Barbie’s unrealistic figure and her superficial consumerism.
And Barbie definitely lacked ethnicity, even when they were meant to be black or Hispanic. The company simply took the Barbie mold and hair and gave the doll darker skin.
The new dolls are a definite improvement over Mattel’s previous attempts. But they still fall slightly short, falling back on what is more socially acceptable and reinforcing old standards of beauty that have changed dramatically as our society becomes more multicultural.
The dolls have gotten mixed reviews from the African-American community.
“The S.I.S. dolls are just another example of how America loves to see American-Americans: as white as possible,” says About-face.com. “Of course many black women do have hair like this, but most don’t grow it that way naturally. There are six different dolls – why not six different kinds of hair? To me, this lack of representation just reaffirms the notion that ‘nappy’ or ‘kinky’ hair is bad, while promoting long, sleek hair as the most (or only) beautiful option.”
Blogger Raven Hill writes on Jezebel.com: “Hair can be a complicated subject for black women, and it would be sad for any little girl to feel as if her texture wasn’t desirable or represented.”In the meantime, read how womyn of color are combatting the issue by taking matters into their own hands and giving these straight haired barbies natural hair makeovers! I think I’m gonna make one!
“The S.I.S. dolls are just another example of how America loves to see American-Americans: as white as possible.”
Spirit of the Earth™ Barbie® Doll from the Native Spirit™ Collection
Amazon.com indicates that these dolls go for around 75 bucks a pop.
75 bucks that an actual Native Artisan could probably have really used.
I feel hugely conflicted about things like this; this is a mass-produced item made by a huge corporation. Who is this Barbie supposed to represent? What is she supposed to represent? What nation is she (Hint: She’s not any nation; she’s a melange of white intepretation of what Native Americans should look like). But her clothes are actually reminiscent of something one might see at a modern powwow (the same cannot be said of other dolls in this collection, though: what the shit is this?)
And yet she’s not as bad as this:
But she’s also not this:
And she’s still not a depiction of anyone who could have been a real person, modern or historical. She’s not an image that I’d want to give to any child and say ‘This is what you should think of when you think of Native people.’
Throughout my childhood I got bombarded with deliciously conflicting images about What Makes the Red Man Red and how apparently I’m supposed to care about the fucking Colors of the Wind (and about having to sing that song in middle school chorus, and feeling icky about it but not having the wherewith to confront authority about it because at 13 I couldn’t articulate why it felt so icky). It’s about how I’m supposed to be wearing Braids, Beads, And Buckskins 24/7 OR ELSE I AM NOT REALLY NATIVE (And yet wearing moccasins around the dorm and/or campus is SO WEIRD!) and how I should be happy that at the the image has changed from the 1950’s Scalpin’ Savages to the clearly superior Magical Native American. It’s about The Great American Indian Novel. It’s King Phillip’s War never having been taught in any of my American History classes despite my schools being built on the goddamned battlefields where it took place. It’s having been taught throughout my childhood that The Wampanoags Helped The Pilgrims and they Ate Together at the First Thanksgiving! Yay! And then never having indigenous folks mentioned again until they were bothering the poor heroic homesteaders as they braved their way out west. It’s having been told point-blank that the Wampanoag people -died out- (Unless said teacher knows about the group at Marthas Vinyard, in which case ‘Oh they live on reservations now’ might be mentioned). It’s about having been told time and time again that I don’t exist, that I’m not a person, that I don’t matter and that I don’t have a voice.That NDN people are archaic and strange and look a certain way that is VERY DIFFERENT from how other people in America look.
But as a kid, I loved seeing these depictions, even as horrible and problematic as they were, even as confused and conflicted as they made me feel, because there were all that I was offered. Because the only choices were ‘shitty stereotype’ and ‘total absence’.
And I guess that doll’s slightly better? Right? A little bit? Maybe? ::sob::
As much as I hate Disney for its standard portrayals of INA folks (Re: Peter Pan, Pocahontas, Squanto)? I kind of love Lilo and Stich. Because Lilo and Nani were clearly Indigenous Hawai’ian and the story just went on around that without it being a super-special plot point and without it being expected that they live in a way that is hugely vastly different from other residents of their hometown or else aren’t -genuine-.
I want an NDN doll that’s not dressed in full regalia, just once, for fuck’s sake, PLEASE.
What I really want to see on the shelf is the NDN edition of Computer Engineer Barbie or Presidential Candidate Barbie or Sign Language Teacher Barbie or Veterinarian Barbie or Paleontologist Barbie… Or hell, and actual Powwow Barbie or Shawl Dancer Barbie, because if you MUST put regalia on your NDN doll (because, yanno, no one will recognize what an NDN doll is unless they’re in regalia) at least let it be modern and remotely accurate and have the back blurb on the box explain what it is and where it fits in the current world. Because NDNs are real people who are currently alive and wandering around doing shit.
And also I’d like to strike the word ‘Spirit’ from the vocabularies of people marketing NDN-associated things.