Fostering genuine self-image even with picky hair

Listen to this oped now.

The vital role of realism and diversity in children’s toysThe landscape of children’s toys is evolving, reflecting a powerful shift towards representation and inclusivity. However, a recent addition to the market, the NATURALISTAS Natural Hair Fashion Doll Line, has ignited a discussion about the potential impact of unrealistic beauty standards on young minds. While the intention behind these dolls is commendable, it is imperative to examine how they might influence the self-perception of children within the Black community.

Looking back at the seventies, the absence of Black dolls left a void, depriving children of the chance to connect with their toys on a deeper level. Fast forward to today, where toy aisles are adorned with a plethora of dolls catering to diverse skin tones, hair textures, and body shapes. This transformation empowers children, particularly those of African descent, to find dolls that mirror their distinct identities, fostering a sense of belonging and self-assuredness.

In 2020, Purpose Toys unveiled the NATURALISTAS Natural Hair Fashion Doll Line, a collection designed to celebrate textured hair and a range of melanin-rich hues. The dolls, reminiscent of the iconic Barbie line, seek to offer children an opportunity to embrace their natural hair. Yet, an element of concern emerges when analyzing the dolls’ hair lengths, which are notably exaggerated and reminiscent of adult hair extensions and weaves. Furthermore, the samples that are represented in our news report in this week’s paper show these massive manes mounted on dolls with facial shapes that are the furthest thing from the faces of average Black children. They look more like Nicole Kidman with a tan than Rihanna who doesn’t need the sun to be who she is. Despite noble intentions, the NATURALISTAS Doll Line promotes misleading ideals of beauty to impressionable young minds.

The dolls’ exaggeratedly long and voluminous hair does communicate a message that equates beauty with long hair, thereby perpetuating a narrow definition of aesthetic appeal within the Black community. This unintentional consequence may fuel feelings of inadequacy and detachment from one’s authentic attributes, potentially impacting children’s self-esteem and overall mental well-being.

Childhood forms the bedrock of self-concept and self-esteem, a time when children are particularly receptive to external influences. The NATURALISTAS Doll Line, while innovative, could cultivate insecurities and unrealistic aspirations among Black children. The pressure to conform to an idealized hair standard could cultivate a sense of insufficiency, creating a detrimental impact on their mental health and self-worth.

Toys wield an immense influence in shaping of children’s perceptions of themselves and the world they inhabit. Rather than fixating on an exaggerated attribute like hair length, toy manufacturers should prioritize a broad spectrum of representations that mirror the multifaceted nature of the Black community. By celebrating a diverse array of hair textures, lengths, body types, facial shapes, and skin tones, we send a resounding message of acceptance and self-love.

As we navigate the path toward comprehensive inclusivity, it becomes crucial to strike a harmonious balance between celebrating natural attributes and cultivating a genuinely positive self-perception among children. While the NATURALISTAS Natural Hair Fashion Doll Line introduces a groundbreaking concept, the potential repercussions of unrealistic beauty standards merit thoughtful consideration.

In our collective pursuit of diversity and representation in children’s toys, let us ensure that the messages we transmit to young minds are uplifting, authentic, and reflective of the rich tapestry of the Black experience.