Usborne All about Diversity from Once Upon a Book Shop


Usborne All about Diversity from Once Upon a Book Shop

This dynamic and joyous exploration of difference helps young children learn to respond in a kind and equal way to everyone, regardless of shape, size, age, physical and mental ability, gender, ethnicity, beliefs, language, culture, background, and so on. With topics ranging from clothes, music and food to homes, festivals and families, there is plenty for children to talk about as they find out about what makes people different and what makes them unique.

{articles|100|campaign}What Diversity in Books Means to Me

A.K.A. the video I’m scared to post.

Let me know what you think diversity means and should mean.

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Bahar-bie: the OOAK Modern Iranian Barbie doll
another OOAK doll, as branded by me!

Here is the story of this extraordinary doll…

I occasionally find myself wandering the aisles of Toys-R-Us, looking for nothing in particular. On one recent occasion, I noticed the Top Model Barbie was marked half price, and there were 3 dolls to choose from. It seemed at least 80% of the stock were comprised of the blonde Barbie doll, with the remainder being the red-haired Summer doll…and only ONE Teresa doll was left on the shelf. This peaked my curiosity, as I immediately found Teresa far more interesting than her contemporaries. So I bought her.

After I took her home, I Googled for the history of the Teresa doll, and was impressed to find extensive writing on the subject, thanks to Google Books…

No thanks to Google Books, copying and pasting text quotations is pretty much impossible at present. This challenge led me to do a comprehensive text transcription from the book Core Cultural Icons – Barbie Culture by Mary F. Rogers, taking a good chunk from the chapter "(Hetero)Sexuality and race in Barbie’s world"

pp 50-52

…Paralleling their perceptions are those of many consumers who favor the white dolls as the most attractive, glamorous Barbies. Charlotte, a white mother whose daughter attends a Montessori school, reports that "We started out with Barbies of all ethnic backgrounds, but little by little (my daughter) decided that the only pretty ones were blond with blue eyes… This disturbs me, and I’m not sure how to combat it except to claim that the dark-haired Barbies are my favorites."
In a different part of the world other children’s preferences run in the same direction. Elaine Sciolino (1997) reports that even though Islamically correct versions of Barbie are sold in Iran, the preferred Barbies are the imported ones – that is, the while ones in Western clothing.
That state of affairs reflects do racial and ethnic hierarchies where "white" prevails as clean, respectable, successful, and morally upright; healthy and attractive, too. People’s commonplace preferences for white Barbie may thus reflect racialized notions at work in white-dominated societies. Note, for example, how Margo Rana (1996) describes the very white, blonde blue-eyed Dutch Barbie: "Barbie doll looks so clean and crisp in her typical Netherlands outfit." Whatever individual peoples perceptions might be, Mattel often promotes – whether by design or by default – the very perceptions Rana illustrates. The dolls themselves, the cultural texts built into Mattel’s packaging and advertisements, and Mattel-authorized books and other printed materials convey a doubled-sided message: White is dominant and normal (read "superior") while non-white, including Hispanic, is subordinate and different (read "inferior").
The dolls bespeak these messages most loudly of all. Consider Teresa, Barbie’s Hispanic friend. According to J. Michael Augustyniak (1996a), Teresa came on the market in 1998. When his 1996 article was going to press, 21 versions had been issued. Not one Teresa has to do with a career or job, school or learning, marriage or family. Instead, Teresa’s roles are sex object, athlete, shopper, and Barbie wannabe. Sex-object Teresa comes Wet ‘N Wild, Glitter Beach, Sun Jewel, and Tropical Splash versions where she is costumed in a swimsuit (a bikini in the "tropical" version). Sex-object Teresa also comes in entertainer forms – Lights & Lace (where she has a "music video look"), Rappin’ Rockin’, Hollywood Hair, and Dance Moves Teresas. Athletically inclined Teresas include All Stars Teresa in a tennis outfit, Rollerblade Teresa, and Camp Teresa who comes with both a bikini and cutoff shorts. Baywatch Teresa combines these characterizations; she comes with a swimsuit as well as a sweatsuit. Barbie wannabes among Teresa dolls include United Colors of Benetton Shopping Teresa who parallels shopping Barbies marketed exclusively by FAO Schwarz and Bloomingdale’s; also, Party Time Teresa and Sunflower Teresa, who are direct counterparts of Party Time Barbie and Sunflower Barbie.
Among the Teresas the ultimate Barbie wannabe may be Spots ‘N Dots Teresa. The direct counterpart of Spots ‘N Dots Barbie, this Teresa is marketed "wearing Barbie doll’s dress," as Rana (1996) points out. (The dresses are not identical, by contrast, on the Sunflower and Party Time Barbies and Teresas, though they are nearly so.) Moreover, this Teresa’s package shows her walking what Rana takes to be Barbie’s dog, that is, the same miniature Dalmatian marketed with Spots ‘N Dots Barbie.
Compared with Barbie, Teresa wears only a few colors. Augustyniak’s descriptions indicate that one-third of the twenty-one Teresas come dressed in blue, purple, or violet. About one-quarter of them have hair described as other than black, dark brown, or brunette – "hair with red highlights," "lighter auburn brown hair," "two-tone honey hair," "sandy blond hair," and "dark red hair." At least three of the dolls have green eyes; at least one has blue eyes. This latter doll – the United Colors of Benetton Shopping Teresa – is, says Augustyniak, "considered to be the most beautiful Teresa doll ever…She has wavy brown hair, BLUE eyes, red lips and eyeshadow all enhanced by her beautiful light skin tone" (1996b:41, emphasis added) Thus, Mattel exaggerates the diversity of physical features among Hispanic American women while also whitening Teresa. More often than would be expected within the actual Latina population, Teresa has other than brown or black eyes and other than black or dark brown hair. In these racial respects she is also a Barbie wannabe.
Like many other of Mattel’s "racial" and "ethnic" dolls, Teresa often perpetuates unduly narrow ideas or even stereotypes. All American Teresa, for instance, wears what Augustyniak describes as "flag-decorated bib jean overalls" with a shirt and a "peach bandana," a costume resonant of images of Hispanic Americans as agricultural workers (migrant or not). Needless to say, one negotiates a delicate course when manufacturing images of groupings other than EuroAmericans. On the one side, one can reduce them to different Others who dress distinctively enough to stand out and look foreign; on the other side, one can reduce them to EuroAmerican wannabes who look as assimilated into middle-American culture as many Americans wish they were. Yet when a corporation like Mattel issues multiple Teresas or black Barbies or international Barbies, it has plenty of opportunities to shape the dolls to non-Caucasian features (where appropriate) and to costume them so as to reflect the diverse cultures they represent. As Ann duCille (1996) points out in "Dyes and Dolls," it need not turn out only "dye-dipped versions of archetypal white American beauty."
Mattel did not, however, give Teresa her own head mold until 1992, and the United Colors of Benetton Shopping Teresa issued that year still had the original mold, which was decidedly Caucasian. More generally, many of the "ethnic" Barbies are light-skinned, and some of the "black" and "Hispanic" dolls have skin tones barely distinguishable from one another. At the Philadelphia Barbie show, for instance, I heard a white doll dealer telling a white customer, "Yes, it is a black Barbie." The dealer went on to set the doll alongside another version and said, "See how this one’s skin is lighter than the black one." The lighter-skinned doll was Hispanic. Neither it nor the "black" doll, however, had much skin "color."

…SO, as you can see Teresa is quite an interesting character. Having grown up surrounded by Dutch blondes, I am totally inclined to the dark haired girls, and hence my immediate interest in Teresa. Her ethnicity has fluctuated over the years, and this current Top Model Teresa with her jet black hair struck me as being of Persian/Iranian origin. Hence, I have rebranded her as a most inspiring and aspiring "Modern Iranian Postdoctoral Eco Scientist NGO Delegate Top Model Bahar-bie". Now that’s something to look up to! She’ll always be a Teresa doll, but I chose to name her Bahar for maximum impact.

I’ve kept the Top Model designation because she really is quite a poser, and she takes after Nazanin Afshin-Jam. As for her outfit, she is sporting a lovely co-ordinated black and white outfit, with original sunglasses, pants, boots, socks, and top. She is also wearing an additional white turtleneck sweater which modestly hides her neckline (while revealing a vast swath of midriff; she’s a model, after all). And overtop of it all, she has Dr. Ken’s medical lab coat, and she wears it with such style! (stemming from the postdoctoral/eco scientist reference).

By jmv on 2008-04-01 08:01:00