What's Oprah Toying With?

Is Black to be shunned? Why did Oprah Winfrey’s team have the Mamee Golliwog dolls taken off the shelves because it would offend her during a visit to a Melbourne toy shop?

Golliwog, they say now, stands for racism and slavery. If that is the yardstick then I am afraid every person of Black origin or heritage or colour is reflective of that. History is what we carry with us, not what is left in the junkyard.

Are Barbie dolls removed when overweight people enter stores? What about the blonde ideal that even pervades societies of brown and yellow races? In India I do not recall seeing a brown doll, except perhaps the rag ones or those that were meant to showcase certain cultural activities, like dance or folk music.

While most Golliwog dolls are male, the particular one that might have caused Oprah offense wears a scarf to cover her hair and an apron, the uniform of a cleaning lady. This is indeed a stereotype, but are there no Hispanics who clean? No Whites? No Browns?

If terminology is an issue and wog is a derogatory word, then pop culture has even made Barbie synonymous with an air-head. And what about the whole dumb blonde archetype?

At a time when unemployment rates are high and people are struggling to make ends meet, the idea of a high-profile diva pitted against a washer woman would send out a message of dignity of labour.

It is interesting that on her ‘Ultimate Australian Adventure’, she made it a point to pose for politically correct photographs. One of them is with a couple of Anangu Aboriginal children. What colour are they? And what is the position of such tribes in Australia? Why did she opt for this tourist attraction?

The Golliwog dolls are not replicating Black people, but are a playful expression, a comic façade. Children do make faces, they do like to do funny things and they do dress up in aprons. Remember playing house-house? In a market where dolls have pretty much a standard white colour, the Golliwogs make a statement of not being shunned, but rather accepted on their own terms.

By having them taken off shelves Oprah was reducing them to nothing.


  1. Um, to compare a fat person to Barbie is not equal to a black person to a slave representative. Big difference. Huge.

  2. Analogies need to push the envelope. And though different, they are not false. What about other forms of racism? And why think of the slave doll as 'representative'? And who should the political correctness pander to? Oprah, Ms. Richie Rich? There are dollops of irony hidden in this act.


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