|Jacq's Girls at Eastern Market|
This is a picture of my table at Eastern Market on Sunday, November 25, 2012. There are 3 ballerina dolls, one on the left wearing a pink tutu, one on the right wearing peach, and one off-center wearing turquoise. The turquoise-wearing doll is blonde.
I made all three dolls at the same time and started displaying them together. The first time I set them out, I positioned them all toward the front, but Turquoise was near the middle. Little girls were immediately drawn to her. "She's so pretty!" they would say, and "I like this one best."
Mothers of all colors struggled with a child-appropriate way to address what seemed to be an affinity for the blonde doll over the others. "But you like pink so much, sweetie! Let's look at the pink one," was a popular diversion. The look on all of their faces was summed up by what one mother whispered to me: "She can have any doll she wants, but does it have to be that one?"
Was this an echo of the Clarks' famous doll experiments? These were tests conducted in the 1940s in which children were shown a white doll and an African-American doll and were then asked which doll they would rather play with. The white doll was preferred by both white and African-American children.
There had not been any clear preferences before I set out the blonde ballerina, and blonde hair brings its own issues. Barbie is blonde. Cinderella is blonde. The "pretty" girls on TV are frequently blonde. Women spend millions of dollars a year dyeing their hair blonde. And in the midst of this, mothers are trying to teach their daughters that brown hair and red hair and black hair are just as beautiful as blonde hair. They are not against blonde dolls, but they are alert to signs that the popular media's "blonde is best" message is affecting their children. Watching their daughters pick out the one blonde doll on a table full of dolls felt like a defeat.
I was curious about whether this fascination with that doll was because of her hair or because of her position on the table. So on Sunday, I decided to try a little experiment. I moved her to the back of the table. She was elevated, which she had not been before, so she was quite visible. I placed the darkest brown ballerina, the one wearing a peach tutu, on a front corner.
To my surprise, not one child pointed out the blonde ballerina. They all went to the one wearing the peach tutu. "Look at this one, Mommy!" girls would squeal. "Mommy, this one is the prettiest!" they would say, gently stroking the dark hair or the brown arm.
Maybe there is hope for us yet.
Back to hanging out with the fantastic bloggers at Yeah Write! Because I can.