If the dolls of our childhood were an accurate and reflective representation of reality, the world would be a very dull place indeed.
The toys with which we play as children, help us make sense of ourselves and of the world around us. By limiting the diversity in representations of ethnicity from a young age, we are effectively exposing children to a skewed perception of reality and altering their understanding of what is ‘normal’ and desirable.
The ‘White Washing’ and general lack of ethnic diversity within children’s dolls in the past can be seen to inhibit the positive development of racial identity and self-perception within children of colour. In addition, the largely disproportionate and unattainable body composition of dolls (think Barbie) more generally, can be seen to negatively affect a child’s personal development and self-esteem.
In 2013, artist Nickolay Lamm used the measurements of an average 19year old woman to create a realistically proportioned Barbie doll. Her work was widely praised, with many consumers keen to purchase this increasingly genuine likeness, dubbed the ‘Normal Barbie’.
More recently, Malaville Toys released a series of dolls that aimed to fill the racial void, creating a toy that gives children of colour a friend that is increasingly reflective of their reality. The dolls come in a range of skin tones, each possessing a head of lustrous curls or frizzy updo’s. Although one could still critique the size and proportions of the Malaville dolls, it remains a positive step towards meaningful change in the way we represent race and ethnicity through toys.
Beauty, happiness and health exist in all shapes, sizes and colours and we owe it to our children to reflect this truth.