November 21, 2004

Dolls and role models Yue-Sai Kan started Yue Sai WaWa, a Chinese fashion doll, to provide a doll for girls in China and elsewhere that isn't blond and blue-eyed; in Iran, Dara and Sara provide role models felt to be more compatible with devout Islam as practiced there, as does Razanne. In Japan, Barbie herself is much younger than in North America, while this Australian company is trying to introduce Feral Cheryl (the anti-fashion fashion doll). How many other alternatives or adaptations have there been to this fashion doll, in an effort to better reflect ethnic or cultural differences or simply to provide an alternative?

Matel has, of course, come out with some friends for Barbie who are other ethnicities (such as these Asian dolls), but Barbie is still overwhelmingly blond, blue eyed and stacked, with all pink accessories. (Actually, non-white dolls are easier to find these days than brown haired, brown-eyed white Barbies - I bonded with my Asian Barbie, since she still looked more like me than any of the caucasian). I was really interested by the response to create alternatives to Barbie, and the variety they show. Some are alternatives to Barbie's ethnicity, but are still primarily fashion dolls; others want to challenge the values that appear to be promoted by Barbie. But can they challenge the Queen of fashion? I had a Sindy doll when I was young, which was actually better made than a Barbie, but still wasn't as good as the real thing in my five-year old mind. And to give us all something more to debate: Who is in the Dollhouse? Research reveals [not very] surprising role models.

  • Great stuff! I'm interested in Yue-Sai WaWa, for reasons which will be obvious to regular readers of this page.
  • Sure the Aussie doll isn't called Sheepdog Sheila?
  • Barbie is a bitch. Just sayin'
  • Never heard of She-Ra before now, but she sounds cool...and I thoguht it was interesting the boys picked her in every category. Very encouraging.
  • *thought Think I'll go to bed now.
  • She-Ra, "the Princess of Power", was a 1980s toy and tv cartoon, the female version of He-Man. It was an action figure, rather than a doll, representing She-Ra, who fought the forces of some evil guy on her flying horse. I never had any of the toys, but I remember thinking that the stories on the She-Ra cartoon were better than those on He-Man - I don't know why. Wolof - I think you may have a few years yet before needing to get fashion dolls for your daughter : ) I think I wasn't allowed a Barbie until I was 8, which is good, because I broke the Sindy doll (and they were stronger). Barbie does offer, in the States at least, some Asian dolls, but they can be more filipina looking than Chinese (or so the Asian American page's review notes). But finding Asian baby dolls may be hard as well - at least it is in Toronto, despite the large Chinese and Korean communities.
  • These dolls are always useful to have around...
  • I think you may have a few years yet before needing to get fashion dolls for your daughter Yeah, but that would depend on how indulgent a parent you were ... although I think it will mostly be soft toys and big blocks for the next little while. Too many little plastic bits to choke on for real little kids.
  • I remember being a little jealous of my younger sister's She-Ra set of shield, headgear and pink plastic sword. (My parents were probably equally generous with us but I think they believed I was too old in my teens for toys like that.) I can't remember Mrs. Heart from that article on "Who's in the Dollhouse," so I guess she didn't make much of an impression on me. After reading that article, I wonder if dolls that are more of a blank canvas (rag dolls, non-human forms, or maybe something else) might allow kids to play make believe the way they want (fashion model in the morning, adventure and action in the afternoon, mom at night, etc.) without accumulating 15 different dolls. Or maybe the blank canvas dolls would just be too boring to even pick up because they don't tie in with a tv show aimed at kids. A little off topic: I learned from a Ken doll site that he too had comely comrades of color (Brad, Derek), as well as some interesting incarnations (Earring Magic Ken, native Hawaiian Ken).
  • I think you may have a few years yet before needing to get fashion dolls for your daughter. My experience is that they acquire them somehow whatever you think about it. My sister was about twelve before she got her one and only Sindy doll, but both my daughters had more than one Barbie by the time they were five, mainly birthday party presents from other children.