Monday, November 23, 2009

There's Not a Demand For Them

This is often the excuse used by doll manufacturers and doll artists for excluding black dolls from their lines of production.  Manufacturers and artists have used variations of this excuse time and time again after receiving requests for and inquiries about the absence of black dolls. 

If there is no demand for black dolls, why does my collection and the collection of several fellow black-doll enthusiasts exceed numbers in the 3 to 4 digits?  Are we using our ever-decreasing disposable income on three-dimensional inanimate objects that have no meaning to us?  Personally, I am not. 

I love black dolls and would enjoy being recognized as an avid black-doll enthusiast by the people who create them.  I become incensed and frustrated when I hear statements like:

"Black dolls don't sell."
"I don't see color when creating my dolls." (This statement was from an artist who usually only creates non-black dolls--well, I guess she doesn't see color.)
"Black dolls are more expensive to make."
"It is difficult to find the right color brown for my medium."
"We can't get the color right."

To artists and manufacturers who have used any one of the above excuses why black dolls are not incorporated into your lines, know this:

Excuses only benefit those who make them.
The right types of black dolls are in high demand.
Black-doll collectors do exist; we are not invisible!

In my book, Black Dolls a Comprehensive Guide to Celebrating, Collecting, and Experiencing the Passion, I referenced the frustration that black-doll collecting sometimes causes.  The chore of finding appealing black dolls and the above types of excuses are the two main causes of this frustration.  On page 10, I wrote the following:

Cures to collectors' frustration woes do exist.  Certainly doll manufacturers and artists realize that dolls represent people and are used as playthings and cherished collectibles by people of all ethnicities.  With this certainty, the need for adequate doll representation for everyone is apparent.  The inclusion of black dolls in all doll lines will allow artists and manufacturers to service the entire doll market.  Excluding black dolls results in the loss of potential business revenue from black-doll collectors and from parents who desire to expose their children to dolls reflective of their image.
Based in their familiarity, inspiration, and immediate association with fellow African Americans, AA doll artists most assuredly can supply the demand for creating beautiful black dolls.  There are many talented AA doll artists whose dolls "live" in obscurity because of the artists' anonymity...
Doll manufacturers should incorporate the talents of  black doll artists.  Manufacturers and mainstream doll artists can and should solicit opinions from black-doll collectors via focus groups and surveys.  By any means necessary, they should think inclusion not exclusion.

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6 comments:

  1. I agree with you regarding the frustration. There are times when I can't find any Black Dolls in the stores that I frequent. I used to just say "Oh well" to myself but lately I've been going to the managers and having some serious REMARKS! It isn't because there aren't any African American people within the demographic either. One store did put in a couple of Black dolls after that but the other only had one. This is after months and months of repeated inquiries.

    My Hubby told me to start taking a camera to the store to take pics of the Caucasian doll shelf and send it to Corporate and inquire as to why there are STILL no substantial Black dolls on the shelf. There should be a good variety unless the demographic for a specific area warrants otherwise.

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  2. Hugs - thank you for your comment and for being an activist for the cause. I have been a black-doll activist since the 1970s, after the birth of my daughter, long before I became a black-doll collector because I was bound and determined that she would not endure the same type of childhood that I endured -- a black-doll-less one. I was quite successful in that regard, but it was a difficult task nonetheless.

    I wrote letters to manufacturers and complained to store managers about MIA black dolls, like you have done and are doing.

    Things have improved since the 1970s, but the availability of black dolls, both collectible and play, still lags far behind white dolls.

    I can only speak for what I desire, but I know that other ethnicities must feel the same way.

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  3. Of course, there's a demand for Black dolls. As of November 20, 2009 merchandise for Tiana, Disney's first African-American Princess doll, has been outselling other Disney Princess-branded items in double digits. According to the Variety® article from November 20, 2009 "more than 45,000 of the character's dolls have sold in less than a month, with 17,000 sold last week alone."

    Parents of children of African descent want to provide "dolls that look like them." And thankfully in 2009 there are multiple choices. An example is EthiDolls.com, the company that celebrates historic African women leaders from history with authentic dolls and audio/illustrated storybooks--not only fun but educational products!

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  4. Of course there's a demand! So far I've only seen real pics of the 3 AA barbie basic dolls... because well, many people have chosen to only buy those! This could also be said of dolls of all other colors besides European (yes I know, that isn't a color)... Asians, Pacific Islanders and South Americans are sorely underrepresented in the doll population as well :(

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  5. Great post Debbie and true! It's obvious that these manufacturer's do not want our disposable income and that's quite all right with me!

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  6. I'm fortunate in that I collect Playscale dolls and action figures - mostly Mattel, Hasbro, Integrity, and some action figure lines that provide some Black figures.

    And as Margaret writes, we, the Black doll collector-enthusiasts, can spend more with companies that do produce ethnic dolls.

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Thank you! Your comments are appreciated!