Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Simple Experiment

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.

19 comments:

  1. How completely interesting!

    I personally think that all of the ballerina dolls are adorable! I'm a redhead and have a blonde daughter who wants nothing more that to have my red hair. She keeps insisting that her hair will turn red when she gets older. We'll see...

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    1. Thank you! I want to make a red-haired doll, but I haven't found the right yarn yet. Soon...

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    2. I'm a redhead who always wanted to be a blonde, because people called me carrot top. Now, as my hair fades into a non-descript auburn with touches of gray, I wished I'd appreciated my hair more then.
      Jacquie, I loved the experiment. Whenever I teach art with young children,and we're making clay people, black or white or Latino, they ALWAYS chose the blonde hair!

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  2. Thankfully, a happy ending! It's not easy being a girl, or a woman for that matter with media us telling us we should all try and look like 1% of the population. Took me a learn time to love the skin I'm in, but it was a lesson well learned!

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  3. very interesting!
    i was just on your doll site today as i still would love to get one with the afropuffs for my Lovie. :) in fact, that peach one is perfect. and those little angels? how cute!!

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  4. i guess the one i like is in the center- no tutu; more of an orange than a peach. the peach one is gorgeous, too. but the afropuffs on the orange one scream my Lovie.

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  5. I love your experiment (I'm a scientist ;). That's so interesting (and such a relief) that it was the position and not the doll! All your dolls are beautiful.

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  6. That is an interesting experiment. It sounds like you had a lot of interest, too.

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  7. This is so interesting. I have been fascinated by the Clarks' dolls experiment for years. I love your spin on it!

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  8. Yay!! That's an exciting result. Personally, I love the peach tutu doll. The peach color against her dark chocolate skin is simply gorgeous.

    I am a fair-skinned red head, my daughter is a Latina beauty. As a child she had dolls of all colors because in our house they were all beautiful.

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  9. That's fascinating to me! I am quite pale and freckled and a red-head. I've always loved my hair color, and I've never dyed it. If I did (like when the grey hairs start taking over the red) I'll likely go dark brown to match my eyebrows.
    I'm not sure why, but when I was little, I really wanted an African-American baby doll, and my aunt bought me one. She was always one of my favorites, and I think my mom still has her in a box somewhere. This makes me want to get her out again.
    I think the only blonde dolls I had were some of my Barbies.

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  10. My daughter is a dancer blond and fair and some years ago she wanted a dancer doll from American Girl, which happened to be a Latina doll. Sometimes when she would take it out people woild think itbwas a black doll. We never corrected yhem she has had dolls from all across the spectrum and has never cared about their complexion.

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    1. She would love your dolls by the way.

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  11. Can I just say that I was glad to hear that people lost interest when she was moved to the back? You never know why kids want the things they want, and sometimes we can't measure how the outside messages filter into their brains. Your dolls are amazing, by the way!

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  12. I'm really conscious of this. There are no blonde dolls in our house and there won't be. I want my daughter to have dolls that look like her and other ethnicities. She'll get plenty of exposure to blonde perfection outside the home.

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  13. Well that's pretty cool - what a great outcome!

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  14. I like how you did your own little experiment. It's so interesting to watch kids and their reaction to various things!

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  15. Yay! So happy to hear it might be the placement of the doll, rather than her complexion. I saw that experiment you mentioned just a couple of months ago and it was really something to see how young those preconceived notions start, with no logical explanation to them.

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  16. I've enjoyed viewing your unique dolls and art quilts...good to visit your website & blog! My Best...

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