I’m white but all of my favorite dolls growing up were not. I mostly sought out Indian, Native American, and Asian dolls, although I had a few that were designated Hispanic and one beloved dark skinned doll with gorgeous curly/kinky hair. I was going through old boxes of stuff yesterday and found a few barbies that had never left their boxes and were untouched and forgotten. They were all blonde. I guess I really didn’t care for blonde dolls. They were boring.
I read your article today and wanted to state that your target may be seriously underestimating their chosen demographic by not stocking diverse dolls. Just from a “sell as many dolls as possible standpoint” who wants to buy a bunch of dolls that all look the same? If they all are blonde, white with blue eyes you are better off buying one doll and getting different outfits. If they only have one black doll and they only expect black people to buy the black dolls that still leaves those families being better off buying one doll and different outfits than just repeats of the same one. If you have a bunch of different looking dolls though, with a wide range of characteristics parents won’t feel as though they are buying the same doll twice and may buy more.
Today I actually visited my local target, having forgotten that I was in a college town and this weekend was freshman orientation. The store was crowded to say the least and at one point, to escape some of the crowd I slipped into the toy aisle (which was not an aisle frequented by college freshmen and their parents stocking up on food, school supplies and household items.). What I saw made me very happy. There were the DC Superhero girl dolls with an abundance of Wonder Woman (who in this rendition at least has a more olive toned complexion) and Bumblebee (with curls and wings ;) ) in addition to the understandably pale poison ivy, Harley-Quinn and Supergirl. The Barbies displayed a variety of dolls with skins ranging from very very pale white to a dark chocolate brown and hair that was blonde, long, short, blue, brown, red, black, straight, wavy or very curly. Of course there were plenty of the typical blonde Barbies in attendance, but they did not make up as overwhelming a majority as I’ve seen at other times. The Disney dolls were highlighting Mulan, Merida and the new Latina princess today. No sign of Jasmine or Pocahontas this time, but there was also no sign of Cinderella or Sleeping beauty. Anna, Elsa, Ariel and Tiana were there too but in smaller numbers than usual. Monster High was true to form with mildly amusing names, references to myths/legends/monsters from all over the world and skin tones that ranged from neutral brown-peach color pallets to green, blue, orange, pink or purple ones. …then there were the our generation dolls… I didn’t notice any non white ones there. Pity. The larger dolls were overwhelmingly white- maybe because they don’t expect parents to buy many of them?
Some targets seem to be doing a bit better at diversifying their doll section though. But I think a big thing is that certain doll brands are doing a better job at creating a more diverse cast of characters to begin with. It’s easy for a store to not stock the lone POC doll, but when the company creates a lot of different POC dolls it is likely harder to choose to stock only the white ones.