girls and their dolls

I was amused, when I discovered the portrait of a black girl with a white doll. Eric Lafforgue shot this Muhacaona ( Mucawana) tribe girl in an African desert with no shops around, he commented: “…perhaps some tourists gave her the doll … the funny thing: she has made dreadlocks on the blue-eyed doll, to make her look like herself!” Frizz: there is a tension, but what kind of tension? Please read more below the picture…

The Muhacaona doll - Angola
photo by © Eric Lafforgue, sent to my group BLOG IT – click on the picture to enter his galleries on or visit his website at
Another month I came back to the same topic with a different point of view: The Polish photographer Ilona Szwarc, she made series with the title “American Dolls” – visit – and she asked herself, if those dolls, imitating their owners, would not play a “crucial role at the time when the girls are forming their identities…” – I followed the discussion published by the New York Times growing-up-in-america – and indeed the readers there sharpened the interpretation. We can read there terms as “narcissistic”, “extension of their parents”, “next generation of self-absorbed, shallow mindless women” – do you have an opinion to this topic?
my two daughters, white, loved dolls with African American skin, hairstyle and outfit (they like to listen soul and blues music now, aged 40)…
my comment, sent to the New York Times:
it’s better to play with a dog to have interaction, communication, dialogues than to get fixed in one’s own selfish mirror. Identity is something going forward, not fenced in …

About frizztext

writer, photographer, guitarist

17 responses to “girls and their dolls

  1. Interesting photo for sure and I watched the LENS blog American Girl slideshow last week and was amazes. I blogged about old fashioned dolls yesterday and wondered about trends in doll ownership and play.


  2. being a doll lover I find the series very interesting! Though I never had any of the American Girl dolls, I did have some of the books (I remember Felicity’s series) when i was a kid. they came out just as I was going into junior high though, so I outgrew them quickly.


  3. There is no doubt that Szwarc’s photos are artistic and beautiful in an odd way but like a good play, movie or advertisement they have been well thought out and constructed to achieve a desired effect – whether they are a valid criticism of american pre-teen consumerism and narcissistic self-indulgence leading to a future female incarnation is debatable. The American Girl dolls as mentioned in the comments in the NY times article comments were originally historical figures and a way to get girls to be a little more proactive about reading and their own american history and were only available through mail order – when the company decided to ship to other countries, girls other than americans bought them because they were well- constructed and interesting. Ever since girls could tie a couple of twigs together with rawhide and pretend it was a “doll” they have played with this type of gender specific toy and presumably they always will – is this type of recreational activity one of the greatest factors in what girls will be like when they grow up? Many would say no….


  4. First of all, a beautiful picture of the girl and her doll. And then, yes, there are a lot of influences on children, and perhaps a good amount of determination that is genetic. I doubt that we can guess to what extent the commercial toys influence our children, and I believe that many children project their own fantasies and desires on their toys and dolls, The fact that the doll is white does not have to connect to racism, unless this is a subject that has bothered her before she ever saw the doll.


  5. Very interesting you bring this up Dietmar! In India almost all dolls that children play with are white and blonde! Sometimes they wear Indian clothes, but they are still white not brown. Sometime ago, when my god-daughter was born in the U.S. her mother wanted to get her dolls of different races and asked me to get an Indian one. I could not find a single brown skinned doll in the market, and finally one white doll with brown hair, and Indian clothes was sent to her. If you sold white, brown and black dolls in the market in India, I can guarantee you only the white ones would get sold. That’s because we have a hugely internalized racial inferiority complex. India has a multi-billion dollar market for skin whitening creams. On the T.V. there are advertisements by top Bollywood actors telling women if they don’t have white skin they won’t find a husband and they also won’t find a job in the job market!! Many Indians say this was done to Indians by the colonial British government. To that I say: Don’t Indians have a brain of their own to analyze their own perspective on their life and racial identity? So easy not to take responsibility for our own stupidity!! I should also add here — I’ve hated playing with dolls as a child. All the dolls I got as gifts were pushed into a trunk in my room! My favorite pastime was going for long rides on my bike with my dogs. I’d take some books, paints, notebooks and read and write someplace under a tree, near a pond. And in the morning I would get up and work in the garden — weeding, watering (from when I was 7 years old) 🙂 But I absolutely hated playing with dolls.


    • hi Rita, you wrote: “…My favorite pastime was going for long rides on my bike with my dogs…” – my wife did the same thing – and my daughters played much more with dogs and cats and horses than with dead dolls. Interaction, care for, dialogues: better with an animal; and it’s better to expand identity via communication to other species than to make it narrow: with wrong idols …


  6. I am shallow enough to admit I always wanted a Barbie doll which I think, that as a short, fat frumpy little girl with short wavy hair, was my way of saying I wanted to look like Barbie! I didn’t get the doll and I accepted the reality of my looks a long time ago and Barbie is nowhere near the mark! But it never felt as though it was a big deal, it just was what it was!

    As a mother of only sons I often wonder how I might have handled the doll situation with daughters . . .

    Frizz, did you see this link from the NYT’s?


    • “…I am shallow enough to admit I always…”
      had as a boy posters of pilots, cowboys or
      – guitar-players… maybe a kind of
      Barbie admiring too – translated to
      another gender role model …


  7. The difference for any girl, I think, is having the choice to play with a doll that looks like her or not. When I played with dolls in the U.S. some 40-something years ago, they were all blonde or brunette with fair skin. As an Asian-Pacific Islander, it would have been reassuring and fun to have a doll “of color” that looked somewhat like me growing up.


  8. FYI – March 3 (tomorrow) is Girls’ Day in Japan (or Japanese Doll Festival). My mother always remembers this day with me – I am her only child.



  9. museconfuse

    Interesting topic that has had quite a few debates on. My two cents is that as a child, I never saw the doll as an ideal to strive for. It was just a doll, a toy (although perhaps much can be said about the fact that the dolls always seeme to lose their heads or have raggedy haircuts). I never grew up wanting to be white and have blonde hair or saw it as being the ideal beauty. I loved being Asian. Also, my parents, friends, my education, living in different places had way more influence on my belief system than dolls.


  10. Pingback: Of Barbies again – a more in depth look at her influence on me | museconfuse

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