My Surprising Lack of Options

I don’t know why I bother clicking on baby dolls or kids’ books. It just upsets me when all the dolls or characters are white and nary a one is anything else. It just makes me feel so sad and disappointed.

At this point, it doesn’t even matter if the doll isn’t Asian or of mixed race (that will be the day). I would accept any ethnicity that is not white. I would also like to see more than one token doll of color – and I don’t consider “really tan” as another ethnicity. But I know that is even crazier than asking for just one mixed race doll.

It’s as if these dolls inhabit a world where there is only one kind of black person or one kind of Latino – but white folks? Legion. Is this how white folks really see the world? That there are a rich mix of features and variety for Caucasians but everyone else looks exactly the same? Or is this what being “color blind” reduces everyone to, causing people to be blind to everyone who is of color?

It really makes me very, very sad. Sad isn’t even the appropriate word. More like angry. Indignant. Defeated.

How many choices of dolls do you think there are out there? Let’s just narrow the field down to that well-known Barbie. Since 1999, there have been at least 2,300 versions sold of the Barbie doll. That’s a lot of dolls. Do you know how many dolls I found when I was looking for an Asian baby doll for Gamera? (Please do not get me started on the creepy, utterly gross results I got. *shiver*) Four. I found FOUR Asian dolls that were reasonable for a toddler to play with (not the collector’s kind and not the squicky sexy kind). There is something wrong with that, don’t you think?

Here’s a great post by someone who loved American Dolls (another super popular doll brand) and their lack of inclusion for Asian Americans. (It’s not like we built a fucking railroad or anything. Oh, wait. WE DID. To be fair, American Dolls does make a custom Asian American doll – but I’m not paying that much money for a doll my kids are going to decapitate someday.)

And for folks who think I am making a big deal out of nothing, do you own a doll of another ethnicity? If not, why? Is it because she doesn’t look like you or your kid? Then why do you suppose I would want a doll that doesn’t look like me or my kid? At best, people have never thought about it much. At worst, they think every one wants to look like them. (My money’s on the former.)

I’m not trying to make people feel bad. To be brutally honest, I don’t give two fucks about other people and the dolls that represent them. (Ok, I do, in a peripheral sort of way.) It’s not the vast variety of white baby dolls that bothers me. As far as I’m concerned, the more the merrier. What bothers me is the LACK of dolls that represent ME and MY children.

What I find even MORE astounding is that I would think that Asian countries would be ALL OVER THIS SHIT. Corner the market for Asian Americans and their offspring! But, no. Not a single one that I could find. I think that depresses me even more. I finally bought a French made one for Gamera. The doll looks kinda creepy, but Gamera likes her just fine.

Anyhow, this post got started because I got one an email from one of those deal sites and they were talking about how they have so many beautiful dolls for our little girls to play with. Six dolls were featured and not a single one of them was of a non-white ethnicity. Apparently, only white girls can be princesses and mermaids.

White Man’s Burden

You know what I’m sick of seeing on TV and in movies? Some white dude swooping in to protect and save either women, minorities, or people from a different culture from some thing – be it sexual slavery, rape, themselves, etc. What spurred this rant? This week’s NCIS episode.

Now normally, I love me some NCIS and Leroy Jethro Gibbs. (Mark Harmon just does it for me. I realize this makes me some kind of old, but whatever. Don’t judge me.) But this episode just pissed me off. Why? Because ostensibly, the episode was about smuggling Afghani women who were fleeing arranged marriages or abusive husbands into America. The women came to attention because some Afghani families hired a hitman to find the escaped women in America and “honor kill” them by dumping acid in their face. (Apparently too much hydroflouric acid can cause cardiac arrest. Who says TV doesn’t teach you anything?)

However, mostly the episode just highlighted Gibbs and his guilt over not helping earlier. When an Afghani women’s shelter is threatened with a bombing by the local men, Gibbs goes outside and fights off the mean Afghani men. *eyerolls* The women are just props and background. You never care about them except in a vague “feed the children” kind of way, and the emphasis is only Gibbs, his “bravery” for standing up to those “savages” and how he saves the day.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not pro bombings, abusing women, or marrying teenage girls to old men. But really? FFS, people. White dudes are not the only saviors in this world but time and time again, we get some stoic, no nonsense white guy swooping in (reluctantly, natch) to save these poor victims from whatever trite villainy of the day. It’s really just a prime time version of the After School Special and the Very Special Episode.

It’s contrived and really fucking annoying.

I’m all for shows that truly highlight issues that are ripped from the headlines, but I am NOT for using whole groups of people – especially victims – as gimmicks. They are only present to set up the hero. This objectifies and re-victimizes these people all over again.

Of course, I’m totally screwing up my explanation. I’m rarely very good at explaining issues of privilege in clear, useful language. I’m much more of a ranty “GAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!! THIS SUCKS BALLS!!” type of reactionary writer. For some coherent reasons why this situation is annoying, here are some recent articles I cribbed from Racialicious.

The Problem With Miss Saigon
Malala Yousafzai and the White Savior Complex
War Before Memory
Mighty Whitey (from TV Tropes)

So that’s what you get today for a post. Rantiness. But it can’t be just me who feels this way, right? RIGHT?

*Image courtesy of Racialicious.