This week, Kiwi mum Courtney Davidson shared her frustration over the scarcity of non-white dolls for her young daughters to play with. She spoke of popping into Farmers before Christmas to buy a doll, only to find “rows and rows of dolls that looked exactly the same” – blue-eyed, blonde-haired, and nothing like her brown-skinned children. Farmers has responded by revealing three new product initiatives featuring dolls of colour which will be rolled out this year.
“Nobody has to explicitly tell a child their skin colour is ugly and too different, because the message is all around us. Our children are being bombarded with images of pretty girls who, for the most part, look the same.”
And yes, they notice. Children are much more observant than we give them credit for. They may not understand concepts like race, they may not be able to voice it, but absolutely they’re taking it on board. They’re noticing what is being upheld as the standard of beauty by society and the people around them. They’re observing what is considered ‘normal’.”
She said she didn’t have a problem with retailers selling light-skinned dolls, but she felt more choice should be available.
Farmers buying manager Rob Taurima said this afternoon that Farmers acknowledged Davidson’s point of view. He outlined three new initiatives which may help the situation:
1: From April 2016, the Barbie range of ‘Fashionistas’ dolls will include a more diverse range of body shapes and ethnicities. The dolls can be ‘tall’, ‘curvy’ or ‘petite’, and come in an expanded palette of skin tones, hairstyles and outfits. They can be viewed now on Barbie.com.
Barbie maker Mattel describes the toys as offering real-world diversity: “Just like your friends, these cool dolls – each with a unique style – have a wide variety of hair colors and styles, eye colors, skin tones and face shapes.”
2: Also in the next couple of months, Taurima says, the new range of Disney Princess dolls from Hasbro will become available. He says this range will include all 11 Disney Princess dolls – including previously scarce non-white characters like Mulan, Tiana, Jasmine and Pocahontas.
“These characters represent a significant diversification from past assortments dominated by Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty,” Taurima says. “They introduce an element of diversity that Disney had recognised was previously lacking.”
3: In late 2016, the new Disney Princess movie “Moana” will be released in cinemas throughout New Zealand. Excitingly for Kiwi kids of both Maori and Pacific Island descent, Moana is a ‘South Pacific princess’ with no specified origin or heritage. Taurima believes “she will certainly hold broad appeal within the New Zealand market.” The accompanying range of dolls and playsets will be available from Farmers from November this year.
Davidson was pleased with the response: “It is really encouraging to have our concerns acknowledged, especially by a big department store like Farmers. It is a start and I’m looking forward to seeing the new range of dolls as they become available.”