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Why I’m Buying Brown Dolls for My Daughter

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Growing up I was a Barbie fiend. My collection includes none other than MC Hammer – Mr. Too Legit to Quit himself – track star Flo-Jo, complete with her signature nails and colorful outfit, and Limited Edition Wedding Barbie, all in their original packaging.

I can’t claim to have ever owned a Barbie, Cabbage Patch Kid, or Kid Sister that wasn’t within a shade or two of my brown complexion. My mother was adamant that friends and family didn’t gift me with brown dolls that weren’t a loose representation of the girl I saw in the mirror. Now as the mother of a 3-year-old daughter I have chosen not to buy or allow others to buy my daughter baby dolls whose plastic or fabric “skin” tone aren’t a reflection of the very skin that she’s in.

In certain groups, this is a controversial topic. Upon hearing my stance on the matter some people judge my judgment and question my reasoning. A close girlfriend finds my position to be completely ridiculous, citing that the world isn’t made up of just Black people and I shouldn’t limit my daughter’s exposure to other races, ethnicities, and cultures.

As a champion of real-life diversity, and as a product of diverse living and thinking, I ensure that my daughter’s exposure to other races, ethnicities, and cultures are anything but limited; her doll collection, not so much.

My choosing to spend money on brown baby dolls is a choice that has more to do with the fact that children are impressionable, and stereotypes – both negative and positive – about Black women are as abundant as opinions and reality shows, and growing up female is difficult and becoming even more difficult with each plastic surgery advancement and with young girls clothing becoming less Oshkosh and more “Oh Gosh!” The pressures to look a certain way, act a certain way, and be the “she” that has been cropped, tucked, and airbrushed in magazines and on television are very real and very scary. Even adult women find it difficult to resist the ever-present pressures to appear perfect at any cost.

In America, and in subcultures within cultures, not excluding Black culture, all too often perfect and beautiful comes in one size, shape, color, and length of hair.

Choosing to only buy brown baby dolls for my daughter is for me an initial lesson on loving the skin she’s in. It is a subtle lesson that does not interfere with her loving and liking people who look differently than her. In fact, it is a lesson that may actually give her the confidence not to feel differently or less pretty just because most television shows that market to young children, tweens, and females, star girls who look nothing like her.

She sees that Mommy and Daddy interact lovingly and respectfully with people. Mommy and Daddy are mature enough to understand our value and love who we are and what we look like despite the stereotypes and judgments we’ve both received based on Mommy’s “radical” haircut and Daddy’s tattoos and locs. She, on the other hand needs guidance the same way that we received guidance on our own road to self-love and self-worth. She learns by seeing us and she learns by seeing herself in choosing to like and admire the brown baby doll that she pretends is a doctor on Monday and train conductor on Tuesday. She is free to play with whatever toy she chooses – brown, red, white, or orange – but I choose to buy the one that looks most like her with the hopes that she will look at it and say, “Mommy, she’s pretty.” And to that I’ll respond, “Just like you.”

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About the Author

Andrea S. Moore is a healthcare professional, native San Franciscan, co-author of The Mother of All Meltdowns, and creator of Be-Quoted, a lifestyle blog about current events, marriage and relationships, parenting, and self-esteem. You can learn more about her at be-quoted.com and follow her on Twitter at @BeQuotedbyASM.