natural custom ethnic hair dolls

It’s no secret that there is a decided lack of diversity in the doll world* — basically, if you’re not lean, able-bodied and caucasian, it won’t be easy to find a doll in your likeness. For many little girls, this includes their hair texture; dolls typically have the same hair, regardless of ethnicity:

Fortunately, a doll company called Natural Girls United is selling dolls with customized, natural-textured hair so kids who have dreads, braids, locks, afro puffs and other gorgeous styles can have dolls who look like them. Company founder Karen Byrd says this on the site’s “About” page:

As a young girl, I remember loving to play with my dolls… mainly with my Barbie dolls.  I thought the dolls where beautiful, but always noticed that my African American dolls did not look like me. Their features did not look like mines. And their hair certainly did not look or feel like mine!  This did affect my view of what beauty was.

…There have been quite a few studies done that show that African American boys and girls often think of black dolls as bad and white dolls as good.  Of course, this is not something that the parent is teaching their child. So why are they getting these mixed messages about good and bad skin color, or good and bad hair?  It all has to do with the images they see as they grow up.

Karen takes each doll, which often has straight hair, and customizes them to have completely different styles. The amount of time this likely takes it incredible when you consider the level of detail (seriously, look at all those dolls up there).

The importance of toys like this is huge. We still live in a country where schools are banning hairstyles specific to the black community and suspending kids for braiding their hair, which apparently leads to tons of disruption and chaos and wait no there has never been a single braid that’s directly led to something awful happening to other children. Ever. The blog Black Girl Long Hair describes it as such:

The dress code restrictions highlight an age-old struggle that naturals face from both within and outside of the black community. Our hair is viewed as radical, funky or unruly in its natural state, and restrictions are sometimes placed on us in academic and professional settings that do not extend to our non-black counterparts.

When little girls and boys see that all their toys look the same, it sends the same old message, “This is what’s normal, nothing else.” When those same kids differ from that norm, they don’t feel…well, normal. And being different is all well and good, but not being considered acceptable or worthy of having aspects of your appearance that you were born with emulated is hurtful. Kids shouldn’t feel required to alter their appearances in order to (literally) feel like other people would want to play with them. Obviously, it would be lovely if appearance didn’t remotely dictate any negative feelings, but we live in a world where it does, so we should be inclusive for that reason.

In conclusion, these dolls are amazing and I want like 10 of ’em. If you do, too, I strongly recommend you order one ASAP. The waiting list is only getting longer and the holidays are quickly approaching!

*As a side note, the term “doll world” sounded far creepier than intended.

[Via GroupThink, graphic via Natural Girls United]