Sasha and Malia dolls are hot! Maybe not?

by singlemomseeking on January 29, 2009

I’ve been obsessing about race lately.

It started with Obama’s election.

Then my kid asked me — for the first time ever — if she could contact her father, whom she hasn’t spoken to or seen for seven years.

Then, last night, I went to a lecture by Elliot Lewisauthor of Fade: My Journeys in Multiracial Americaon “Multiracial Experiences.”

Interestingly, during the talk, I missed a call from a fellow blogger — Kevin of 5ks and Cabernets — with whom I’ve been emailing about raising biracial children.

My brain is buzzing.

I’ll never forget when I gave M her first baby doll.

I’d gone out searching for a little baby doll who looked like M, and let me tell you: it wasn’t easy.

Years later, when M begged me for an American Girl, I caved in. I hoped that she’d pick out a doll who looked like her. But there was only American Girl with brown skin at the time, much darker than hers, and no biracial American Girls.

In the end, she chose an American Girl who resembled me. (And then my sister’s dog ate the doll.)

~~~

So, when I first heard that Ty — the maker of Beanie Babies — had come out with dolls named “Marvelous Malia” and “Sweet Sasha” — I was psyched.

Yes! At last, there would be more dolls on the shelves who resembled my girl. I’d assumed that President Obama and his family had given Ty permission to manufacture the dolls. But no.

In fact, Ty is denying that the dolls are replicas of the first couple’s daughters — and Michelle Obama is not pleased.

She issued a press releasing saying that it is not proper for this company to produce dolls called Sweet Sasha and Marvelous Malia.

“We feel it is inappropriate to use young, private citizens for marketing purposes,” Obama‘s press secretary, Katie McCormick Lelyveld, said.

The thrill is gone: Ty is clearly being insensitive. (C’mon now, be honest about your marketing strategy, will you?)

Do you think that Ty should cease manufacturing of the dolls?

Would you buy Sweet Sasha and Marvelous Malia dolls?

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Apples January 30, 2009 at 12:35 am

Isn’t this the first non-white doll that Ty ever made? I do think they need to branch out and wake up to what the world looks like. The dolls are cute however, I think they shouldn’t have named them what they did (although they say it had nothing to do with the Presidents daughters-yeah right!) So yes Ty branch out but lets go with generic names next time.

My daughters first doll didn’t look like her at all- Skin Eyes or Hair but she was cute :P She actually more resembled my daughters body when she was born chubby as all can be haha that is why I got her the doll. Now that I think about it, I still don’t think my daughter has a doll that really looks like her but you know what I think it sorta teaches them in a child way that not everyone looks the same and it is okay. Maybe i am dreaming.. I don’t know.

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pinky January 30, 2009 at 2:41 am

But putting the issue of whether these dolls were inappropriate in the first place (which I believe they are) – Malia and Sasha are not biracial. They are black children, period. ALL black Americans – meaning blacks who have been in the US for centuries and are descended from slaves – are of some mixed ancestry, generally white following black, and many with Native American. The racial mixing among blacks in America for the most part was not voluntary – it occurred through the white rape of black slaves over the centuries – which accounts for the great skin, features, and hair diversity we have in our ethnic group today. And coupled with that was the standard of breaking up black American families through slave sales. No black American is 100% “black”. The closest to that would be an African. I can assure you that in most cases, even the lightest skinned, lightest haired black American does not have a recent white ancestor – it’s more often the result of many white ancestors over the centuries.

People with one direct white parent may choose to call themselves biracial at times. Black Americans with 2 black parents don’t – that mixing is an inherent part of our history. That is why Beyoncé does not look like she is from Kenya – but she is not “biracial” either. The heritage I described above is Michelle Obama’s ancestry. It is also Will Smith’s ancestry (who also does not look African, and is not biracial). It is also the ancestry of Aretha Franklin, Lena Horne, Prince, and millions of other black Americans. It is also my ancestry. Malia and Sasha are not, by any means, biracial. If they are, well so is every black person you usually see walking down the street. But the dolls don’t look too black or black-white anyway; I think they look more like non-black Latinas, lol!

But kudos to you for addressing your daughter’s hair (I read your other link)! I was just lamenting over this last night with some black female friends – pointing our fingers at Angelina Jolie (poor Zahara’s hair). Nappy hair is unique, and generally only black people know how to do it. And I’ve seen so many little mixed girls with white mothers who seem like they can’t be bothered to learn how to care for their daughter’s hair, which is just irresponsible. It does them a disservice cosmetically and in terms of self-pride. I hope you manage with the twists. They’re not too hard, and judging from the pic of your daughter, her hair looks more like what black people would call “soft” or “mixed person nappy”, as opposed to real nappy. I’m sure any black woman you know could help you or you can learn at a black salon if that is not an option. You both look adorable together. Good luck.

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Canadian Bald Guy January 30, 2009 at 3:40 am

It’s a situation where on one hand you’re surprised that a company like Ty would do that, but on the other hand you’re not surprised at all.

It’s absolutely a good idea to make dolls like Sasha and Malia, but I feel the intentions from Ty are to simply off the First Daughters…and that’s just not right. Ty should simply rename them and repackage. Period.

But whether or not “the thrill is gone”, I think you still need to ask yourself…what would M think of having dolls like that?

Canadian Bald Guy´s last blog post…I love Dilbert

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Amy Sue Nathan January 30, 2009 at 5:28 am

Ty was stupid. They should have named the dolls something else, like Masha and Salia. Y’know it would have still sold like crazy, because all little girls would want them because “oh surprise” they look like the first daughters.

I think it’s important for kids to have dolls that resemble their family because they play house. And they should have dolls that don’t for the same reason. The fact that M’s first AG doll looked like you is because she can imagine having a baby that looks like her mommy! It’s very sweet.

Amy Sue Nathan´s last blog post…A sure bet for a Saturday lunch in the Southwest suburbs

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Dr.Leah www.singlemommyhood.com January 30, 2009 at 6:17 am

I wish Ty would have named these dolls something else, too. But, as a psychologist and, occasionally, the Sanity Fairy, I am thrilled.

Rachel’s doll shopping experience is typical not exceptional.

Play is the business of children. These dolls are geared toward young children who will be excited to play with and identify with dolls with a definite multi-racial depiction. These dolls will convey a powerful message that, of course, not everyone in the world looks the same.

Dr.Leah http://www.singlemommyhood.com´s last blog post…Are you going to see Inkheart?

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judy January 30, 2009 at 7:09 am

I think the biracial dolls are long are overdue.

Obama does tend to underplay his race as president.

If this is the worst that wilhappen to these girls as far as press goes it will be miraculous.

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MindyMom January 30, 2009 at 7:23 am

Amy’s comment is right on. I wonder why Ty didn’t just ask the first family for permission first. I bet the result would have been completely different.

MindyMom´s last blog post…When Your Sex Life Hits a Dry Spell

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debra January 30, 2009 at 7:33 am

I can appreciate that Michelle Obama was upset about the dolls, but I think it is perfectly reasonable to expect that American children are going to be enamoured with Sasha and Malia. First, they are exuberant, lovely little girls; they’re irresistable. My son is VERY interested in them, Sasha is his age, we have conversations almost daily about if she’ll get to have dinner with her Dad or if he’s too busy, what kind of a school she goes to, if she likes to read too, like he does. He can identify with a child his own age, and I’m just thrilled that it gives me and my first grader an opportunity to discuss our new President and our government.

As for Ty making the dolls without permission, I agree, they overstepped. But I think that children will enjoy playing pretend with Sasha and Malia, whether they are biracial, african american, caucasian or asian for that matter.

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John F January 30, 2009 at 7:34 am

Ty blew it big time. Had they gone with a different set of names, no problem, but my bet is that they get injuncted (I just made that word up) shortly.

It is difficult enough growing up in the fishbowl called the White House, there is no room for exploitation at all

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Legal Editor Mom January 30, 2009 at 8:36 am

I can relate to your frustration with the lack of multiracial dolls. Friends often ask me if they should buy Caucasian dolls or African American dolls for Lex because they’re not sure what she’d/we’d prefer, and her Barbies in particular have prompted interesting talks on race.

Ty absolutely overstepped even though they’re claiming the dolls weren’t based on the Obama girls. Bull. They should have secured permission from the Obamas first; and because they didn’t, I would not be inclined to purchase them. But I do agree that children across the country would probably be thrilled with similar products and if any do legitimately come out of this presidency, I would definitely buy them for my daughter.

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singlemomseeking January 30, 2009 at 9:09 am

Canadian Bald Guy: Great question re: M’s opinion. When I first asked her — as I was writing this post — she was ambivalent. But after she saw the photo, she said, “Yeah, I want both of them!”

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Kendall January 30, 2009 at 9:28 am

Well yes it is great that Ty is branching out, it is very bad taste to make a doll based on celebrity children without their parents’ consent.

But that’s just my opinion.

Kendall´s last blog post…One Word That Made My Day

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GLSD January 30, 2009 at 3:19 pm

I think it’s wrong that they didn’t get permission first from the pres and his wife, but I’m thrilled that at least they are branching out and making dolls with brown skin. As a mixed person myself, when my daughter was lil, she had all types of dolls. She had a lil brown water baby and I also bought her the barbies of different countries. We traveled and she was always exposed to different nationalities. I’m glad M wants them both! :) Have a great wkend Rachel & M!

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d leggett March 11, 2009 at 11:00 am

My daughters favorite doll for two years of her childhood was a very black barbie she herself named ms. Kesha, after her pre-school teacher that she idiolized. My daudhter happens to be very white. At first I was bothered, like I assume the parents of black and bi-racial children were. I soon realized that the love of the doll came from admiration of a person I was glad to have as a role-model for my child. My advice–are you looking for your childs enjoyment, or are you imposing some misdirected prejudice of your own on your child Your job is to guide your children, not to make every decision for them. Later we purchased a “my twin” doll that looked just like my daughter and found that it was over-rated while also being eirie.(Footnote: I purchased a set of sasha and malia dolls and could not be more pleased with the controversy. Dance classes are very expensive. When the dolls reach $3000 for the set, we will have the birthday party an out-of-work father could not afford this year. The rest goes to dance classes.) God bless you all.

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