In the toy shop ‘The Entertainer’ today I was planning to get Roman a baby doll. Not a fancy clothed one that shits, just a bog standard doll. With a baby grow at a push. Of course they don’t exist, you have to pick between the ghastly shade of pink or that ‘baby blue’ which I don’t ever see any real life babies dressed in, only boy baby dolls own it. I hadn’t considered what ethnicity the doll I was buying would be, but as I scoured the shelf I realised that of these hundreds of dolls, there was only 1 black doll. Not because the others had sold out, but there was only one out of the huge section on show. The Caucasian baby dolls started at £6 and the most expensive – that I spotted – was £50. The one ‘ethnic’ doll shown was £20 and came dressed all in pink.
In the time I was standing there, two black females approached the dolly area. One picked up the ‘ethnic’ doll and quickly put it back, the other woman stared at the shelf for a while before shaking her head and mumbling. Now I can’t jump to a conclusion and say they were looking specifically for a non-Caucasian doll, but they could of been, right? When I moved on to the playmobil section, there was an Asian girl with her (presumably) mother holding a doll in a box. A Caucasian doll. Perhaps that was the doll they were after, but where the heck were the Asian dolls? I walked back to the doll section, and asked a man in the shop’s uniform and said “is this the only non white doll you have?”, he said “yeah it’s the only one we’ve ever stocked” and I said, “oh, that’s awful” and he shrugged, walking away.
I felt a bit embarrassed, but now I’m thinking why the heck did I feel embarrassed? It was a legitimate question. I surely cannot be the only person in this shop, who has ever wanted to buy a doll that was of a different race? Or god forbid, had a choice of more than one.
Noah loves the movie ‘Trolls’ so I looked at the figures on sale. Only the girl Trolls and a sparkly troll was available, all packaged in fuchsia. Where was his favourite character Branch? The male lead in the film? The same with paw patrol – ‘Skye’ the female pup is left out of the prints used on merchandise and has her own items. Why though? Skye is kick ass and a way more valuable member of the team than useless Marshall! Why does her having a canine vagina mean she is excluded from the merchandise targeted at boys?
Moving onto the arts and crafts section, all the craft kits were bright pink, minus the dinosaur excavation kit, that was packaged in khaki. Stupid me, obviously only twee little girls would want to paint a plaster horse or a ‘boisterous’ boy would want to find a fossil. I feel ridiculous about being shocked, because I guess this is the norm, which parents see year after year but I find it appalling!
I am aware that other dolls of other ethnic groups are available, and that there are craft companies which don’t categorise their craft kits by gender, but these weren’t available. I did always like ‘girly’ things when I was younger (and now) but I worry about the messages this sends to such small, sponge like brains. It’s no secret that there are issues around gendered toys but this was the first time I saw it so heavily!