By: Tiffany Chisholm @waywardtiff
Our identity is one of the few things that we get to keep throughout our lives. We get to build upon it, make changes, and take control over the course of our lives, but it is better to build upon it when there is a solid foundation. This is why young black girls need to see dolls that look like them, so that they learn to accept who they are and how they look at an early age.
At a young age, children are impressionable, especially girls who often feel pressurised to be perfect and have a desirable appearance. Most often, young black girls grow up seeing mostly white Barbie dolls with blonde hair, blue eyes, and with little melanin. They should also be available in different skin tones or shades of black. The hair on dolls especially is a big deal because young girls believe that the length and texture have much to do with their measure on the beauty scale (of being a 1 or a 10). Frequently that is why young girls with curly hair want to straighten it or get a weave so they can be more ‘beautiful.’
Young girls need to see more dolls that look like they do so that they grow up being comfortable with who they are, especially the colour of their skin. They will also learn to appreciate their culture. Often in the media, we see being ‘beautiful’ as depicted by someone of Caucasian descent with long straight hair and of a slender body type. Having a variety of black dolls with different body types, hair types and textures will help in building a young girl’s self-esteem and her confidence level at a tender age. She will be able to understand that having coarser, tangle-y and shorter hair is just as beautiful as having long straight hair. They will learn not to aspire to achieve societal beauty standards, and achieve and recognize true beauty within themselves and for themselves.
They also need to see black dolls who are of various professions, so that they know it is OK to aspire to be whatever they wish. Professions such as doctors, lawyers, construction workers, teachers, athletes, and the many other endless possibilities of career paths on which they can embark are primal to their growth. The more black women dolls in power that they see, the more aspirations and motivations they will have to always want to be the best versions of themselves. These dolls can serve as a role model for the younglings who often search for and need role models to help them along their journey in life. It would also be helpful to have more dolls available of prominent and influential women figures around the world who are the epitome of success; women who work hard to achieve their goals and those who are striving to make a difference. By seeing those women, they can model their lives to follow in their footsteps or pave their customized paths in life to their own dreams. They can then become their own unique person and create an ongoing process of positive representation in Black culture.
Black is beautiful, and the sooner young girls are able to recognize this, the more appreciative they will be in the long run. They will have figures whom they can call role models, and appreciate themselves despite not having fair skin or long hair. The more exposed young girls are to a more diverse variety of dolls, the more they will learn to accept and respect the differences in others. They will be aware of their past, understand their culture, and establish an identity and their personality that represents them best.