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The Forum > Article Comments > Only white girls can be princesses > Comments

Only white girls can be princesses : Comments

By Stephen Hagan, published 29/3/2007

Why do children prefer white dolls to black?

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You mention the marketing strategies of big corporations.
I don't know whether you can cast your mind back to the 1950s.
I can, and distinctly remember full-page ads in the evening newspapers for Pelaco, featuring an Aborigine in a gleaming white shirt and the copyline "Mine tinkit they fit!"
Nice one.
Almost as good as the packaging by Kraft which featured a negro's head and the branding "Coon" cheese.
How about the steel wool packets, also featuring a negro and the brand "Nigger Boy" steel wool.
Your children are growing up in a culture which once regarded it as normal, and perhaps desirable, to look down on non-white people.
Posted by Ponder, Thursday, 29 March 2007 9:54:31 AM
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I believe that this ("Only white girls can be princesses") attitude is rapidly disappearing, along with the generations that couldn't see anything wrong with the word "nigger".

My upbringing was predominantly "white", but fortunately my parents held no views - either derogatory or patronising - about other races. Consequently I was able to reach adulthood free of prejudices despite having no contact at all with black people.

I do however question some of the ideas put forward here.

>>Fifteen out of the 21 children preferred the white doll when asked to chose "the nice doll"... Then again perhaps a succession of racist white teachers or fellow white students over time have made disparaging remarks that belittled their race.<<

If these remarks had been a motivating factor behind the kids' attitude towards the dolls, wouldn't they have referred to the white doll as nasty, rather than nice?

The other anecdote that gave me pause was:

>>She... wrote in her best hand writing that she was "proud to be an Aborigine first and loved playing tennis second"... all her class mates, from my subtle inquiries with other parents, didnít make any reference to their race, colour or religion.<<

There's just a touch of double standards here. If the class mates had all written that they were "proud to be white", how would/should the school have reacted? Does this personal pride in race not perpetuate the problem, rather than work towards eradicating it?

It happens that the majority of my son's immediate circle of friends are from non-European backgrounds. And it is a matter of "pride" to me that he has not once, ever, commented or remarked upon this fact. Which gives me some hope that it is indeed a generational problem, and that the current generation - given the chance - will grow out of the problem once and for all.
Posted by Pericles, Thursday, 29 March 2007 10:45:39 AM
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Ponder - I hope that the word "once" (as in a "a society which once considered it...") is the operative word. I, for instance have never heard or seen the advertisments to which you allude, nor have my children so it would seem that we have, as a society, moved on from such blatant discrimination which seems ubelievably shocking in a modern context.

But on the question of skin colour, I have had curious experiences since moving to China. The supermarkets and chemists here are full of skin "whitening" creams, potions and liquids. I was extremely curious about these products when I first arrived.

My classes are huge and, in an effort to try to keep names straight, on the first day of the semester I asked students to introduce themselves alliteratively (Happy Harry, Pretty Penny etc) - a good excercise both in self-evaluation and ice-breaking. I was puzzled by "Yellow Yolanda" and "Ugly Ursula" and remonstrated at the latter. It was explained that they were too "dark" and therefore unapealing.

Many students consider themselves ugly for this reason. We've had a lot of discussions since then on this question. It seems that culturally, white skin has been consideredthe mark of beauty and high caste both here and in Japan for centuries - neither of which countries have had significant contact with Western colour prejudice.I remain confused about what conclusions to draw from this.

On a lighter(!) note: it seems I have inadvertantly become a role model, however. At the end of last semester I was told that, when I arrived I was considered pretty ugly - I am not black but my family on my mother's side are Romany. I am however somewhat eccentric in both appearance and personality.This has apparently now been declared 'cool' so it appears that students now consider also that being "dark" can be cool!

It is to be fervently hoped, however, that our discussions on race and prejudice have contributed the most to this conclusion.
Posted by Romany, Thursday, 29 March 2007 11:20:02 AM
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I can remember when everyone aped the 'Poms' and actors had to develop English accents to get work.

That culture was set by the conservative Robert Menzies, who worshipped the British and royalty, as evidenced by his ingratiating comment about the Queen: 'I did but see her passing by, and yet I love her till I die.'

Howard worships Bush and English royalty and rarely Australian culture. No wonder it is confusing.

Unlike the author I would not draw any deep conclusions about dolls, our children had dolls of all descriptions. They saw no difference. Princesses were irrelevent because these are modern children.

Friends moan that their children when young did not like the imposition of the parent's culture and language at home. However this is more likely to do with the natural rejection by children of rules imposed by parents. It is a task of their development that children become independent.

Further, children want to fade into the 'crowd' for a time while they develop. Children like parents and their parent's preferences to exist in the background and I recall my sisters demanding that they be dropped off a block away from school because they were embarrassed by their very young siblings. No-one else cared that we had a big family, but my elder sisters did.

To the author I would say relax and breathe a bit because if the home life is supportive for the children (as opposed to always giving priority to the parent's egos, values and needs) there will come a time when they are interested to return to their family history and culture.

An easy way to turn children off is to try to make them little images of their parents, warts and all. So as a tip, give the victim baggage a rest, at least around the home. Have confidence in your children and give them room to develop.
Posted by Cornflower, Thursday, 29 March 2007 12:22:13 PM
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Romany wrote "t was explained that they were too "dark" and therefore unapealing"

I've noticed this and pondered about this long and hard in the past...its very prominent in Africa. eg skin lightener called 'ambi' which on chronic use causes multicoloured lighter on dark skin by which time the women are older, but does not stop the young girls using it...

There appears to be a cultural connection between 'dark' and bad/evil/destructive is eastern and western. eg canonical names http://ugweb.cs.ualberta.ca/~joanna/misc.html

So dark skin bad, and dark nail polish is evil nature, etc. Interestingly 'too white' is seen as defect too, as pale white being of weak (genetic) makeup

Thankfully, the change is that 'we are all shades of brown and its all cool' as the new trend...and I think we all can be relieved and happier about skin color is no longer a major divisive issue...

Good article on 'races of man' with some notable(infamous) quotes eg abraham lincoln http://www.cartage.org.lb/en/themes/Sciences/Lifescience/HumanRaces/RacesMan/RacesMan.htm

Sam
Ps~that point of 'proud to be aboriginal' was noted and good for pride of origin, I think bad that the color (on picture) was made an issue...I know we are talking of young child here, but they always reflect the parents whom they imitate...I think if my child with her picture asked 'am i good'...I will be very proud that my child noted my struggle to find the balanced answers to whats before me in life...
Posted by Sam said, Thursday, 29 March 2007 12:26:17 PM
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Pericles: Good points.

For those wondering about why in many non-Western cultures, darker skin is perceived as less desirable, it may be for the same reason that fair skin (at least on women) was perceived as more desirable well into the twentieth century. At one level, darker skin implies exposure to the sun. Prior to our nations developing (and perhaps still holding in developing nations), exposure to the sun implied that one did manual labour, and thus, was from a lower socio-economic class. The converse, fair skin, implied either indoor work (which generally meant a higher level of pay) or no work at all and a life of leisure due to being fabulously wealthy and not needing to work. Maybe these old stereotypes die hard, even though they don't take into account genetics?

Interestingly, I believe the term "blue blood" is also based on race. I once read somewhere that during the Moorish occupation of much of Spain, one test for whether someone had the right to inherit a Christian throne was if you could see the blue blood (ie. veins) through their skin. If not, it probably meant they had some Moorish (or maybe even Jewish) ancestry.
Posted by shorbe, Thursday, 29 March 2007 1:24:45 PM
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