Thursday, September 2, 2010
My Brown Barbies Are Beautiful
By DAREE ALLEN
We all know that taking a child with you to the store for what is supposed to be a “quick trip” never turns out that way. Such was the case after church the other day, when I told my daughter, K, that I was going to return something at Target, and that I wasn’t buying anything. Thing is, K still had birthday money burning a hole in her purse, so, at her insistence, I trotted to the back of the store (why are toys always in the back?) with my heels on to oblige her.
She went to her favorite aisle—the Barbie aisle. When she saw this “Barbie Fashionista,” she immediately had to have it.
“Well, what about these other dolls right here?” I said, pointing to a group of So In Style (S.I.S.) dolls which, like Barbie, are made by Mattel. “They are just like Barbies, but they are mommies with their little girls, just like you and me,” I said, pointing to the duo pack of dolls—one big, one a pint-sized version of what I thought was supposed to be her mom. (In actuality, they are girls who mentor young girls, but I didn’t get that when I first saw these doll combinations.)
But no, K was insistent on getting the Paris Hilton-looking doll. Then I pointed out that the SIS dolls looked like us because they were brown (she is literal with her colors, and calls most White people “peach”). She said, “I don’t like brown dolls.”
[Record-ripping screeeeech here]
I said, “You’re brown. How do you not like brown dolls?”
Then I showed her how each of the SIS dolls did fun stuff with (who I thought to be) their daughters. One pair were cheerleaders. Another pair plays instruments. She selected the artsy pair, Trichelle and Janessa—and it was the package that had the most little pieces in it (painting brushes, a backpack, a sketchpad, and on and on). Oh joy. That means I get to dissemble it and find each of these little pieces in my carpet forevermore. (And why in the name of the sweet heavens above do they always put those white taggy things on the dolls hair? Arrrrgh!)
But all the little pieces are the least of my worries. What in the world was up with my daughter's insistence that she doesn't like brown dolls? This isn't how I'm raising her. It's not how I think. Indeed, I recently attended the Proctor & Gamble sponsored My Black is Beautiful, an event which offers a day of pampering (manis, pedis, facials, and makeovers) while promoting and giving away samples of health and beauty products like Crest, Pantene and Cover Girl to Black women. The My Black is Beautiful movement is above empowering and embracing our beauty in all shades. During the event, I decided to be a part of the model call, and one of the things we were asked to do was finish this statement: “My Black is ________ ," like they do on the interludes of their show on BET. My response was “unbreakable,” because as a single mother I have overcome so many things over the course of my daughter’s life in trying to remain independent and resilient, and setting a good example for her, even while shielding her from negativity. So how ironic was it for me to hear K’s clear distaste for “brown dolls” in preference to blonde-haired Barbies? She has Black baby dolls, including the Black Bratz dolls and the like. In fact, one of her top-requested items for her birthday last month was “a brown man doll” (although she also wanted a Ken, too). So I just didn't—and still don't—understand her proclamation about the brown dolls and her insistence on getting the white one.
Here am I, in the midst of finishing my motivational manuscript about empowering girls and enhancing their self-esteem, and my own daughter, at the tender age of seven, doesn't want to get with the program. Should I be worried? The SIS dolls came in different shades, and although they don’t sport natural hair like I just recently started doing, I've yet to overcome beauty stereotypes for my own child. My book will be dedicated to her, but I wonder, have I messed up already? Am I not doing enough to show her that her Brown is beautiful, too?
I don’t know how deep this is for her, but I’m going to work extra hard to get to the bottom of it—to show her why she should fall deeply, totally in love with exactly who she is. Who we are.
How do you show your children that their brown is beautiful?
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About our MyBrownBaby contributor: Daree Allen is a technical writer and motivational speaker. She is currently writing a self-help book for teen girls. You can reach her at her website, D.elivering A. R.ich, E.mpowering E.xperience and her personal development blog, Daree's Insights.
If you would like to be a featured contributor on MyBrownBaby, email your essays/ideas/blog posts/rants/musings to Denene at denenemillner at gmail dot com.