While not a good argument for having a diverse look at other images of beautiful women, it did help me have a more diverse look on sexuality. Not having any Kens in my Barbies' lives opened the door for them to explore other options. Many of my Barbies hooked up with each other, some married, and others had babies together. One or two of them opted for single motherhood, happily raising children on their own (while working!). All of this cooked up in my imagination before being made aware of any relationships, sexualities, or family structures different from the heteronormitive images on television or in my own family.
Barbies aside, I did have these other dolls when I was even younger than Barbie age that I can barely remember the name of...maybe you can help? I think they were like "Pop 'Ems" or "Poppy Dolls" or something. The main attraction was that they were easy to dress. They were about hand size, and had the long hair you could brush and style, but they were made out of that soft plastic and molded in a kneeling position with no moveable arms or legs- that way you could "pop" their different Velcro attaching outfits on with ease, no silly appendages to deal with. The interchangeable outfits were already equipped with stuffed scarecrow like arms and legs so once dressed they were set to go. There were four different girls. Three white girls (a red head, a blonde, a brunette) and one black girl. I loved them all so very much, I played with them - popping their many outfits on and off - incessantly. The major drawback to this clever toy, was that they made a gazillion little outfits with white hands, but we could never find more outfits (than the ones she came with) for the black doll. I was constantly irritated and confused by this. Not wanting her to have to wear the same clothes while the white girls got to have new outfits all the time, I often just put the white-handed outfits on the black doll even though it was bizarre and sat poorly with me even at 5 years old. I didn't get the deeper cultural implications then, and not having thought about those dolls very often since, this outfit problem really struck me again, twenty years later, after reading Danielle Belton's On Little Black Girls, Beauty and Barbie Dolls on her blog The Black Snob.
Her experience, detailed in that post, really highlights the gap in American culture and what it means to have privilege. Also, when she speaks about modeling agencies making excuses for why the Obama girls are attractive - “It’s a very specific age and a very specific ethnicity, so there aren’t that many girls that would necessarily fit the bill" - it reminds you that no matter how many cable news shows claim it, the new first family does not prove that racism is over. Mostly though, I love her"Cute Black Girls Are Everywhere, You Idiots" photo campaign, and want anyone who can to enter it! There's only two days left though, so don't delay! Also, what kind of dolls or toys did you play with that had similar racial or gendered implications?