I never got picked on or bullied for being Asian, thank goodness! In first grade I had a friend who was in sixth grade who rode the bus with me and she protected me. Sadly I don't remember her name but I'm so glad she saved me a seat every day. I think the kids at my elementary school were just nicer to one another. I was the only Korean at the school. There were some Hmong kids and a Vietnamese girl and then a lot of Latnios and African-Americans.
I am adopted by a Caucasian family, and while that fact didn't bother me, I do remember spending a lot of time looking for other Asian women in the movies and media. I wanted to know that Asian was beautiful too. At the height of the 80s, blonde and blue-eyed was popular and I was pretty much the opposite of that. Even Molly Ringwald, with her gorgeous red hair, was pretty much the opposite of Asian. I'm not belittling any of the discrimination that other nationalities faced because I know others had it far worse. I count myself lucky that I didn't have any outright discrimination. Still, it's hard growing up with no Asian role models in the media. There just weren't that many! I remember Linda Yu and Tamlyn Tomita, who played Kimiko in The Karate Kid Part II.
I also desperately wanted an Asian doll. My parents had found me one (and who even knows where they found it), but all the other dolls were blonde and blue-eyed. I had a Hawaiian Barbie friend and that was it! The only other options were ethnic dolls in a native costume. While the Japanese Kimono, the Korean Hanbok and the Chinese Qipao are beautiful, Asians don't just walk around in the United States wearing them. I wanted an Asian doll that was JUST LIKE ME. One that wore regular girl clothing, but had almond eyes and brown hair. I believe that the dolls and toys that are available to young children sends a message. There was a message being sent in the 80s, and that was that Asian is not beautiful.
Okay, so it's 2014, and I'm just about 40 years old. I just had my first little girl in January. She is the first member of my family who looks like me, with her almond-shaped eyes. Seeing her brought back the feelings from my childhood and I was determined to find her an Asian doll. She doesn't need ALL Asian dolls, I'd like her to have a variety of dolls. I want her to know that Asian is beautiful too.
I really wanted her to have a different kind of Asian doll, so I headed to Target. I never really looked at the doll section of Target, so I was surprised to find that dolls haven't changed much in 35 years. There were NO ASIAN DOLLS in Target.
(Now, I live in the Chicago Suburbs in an area that is pretty diverse. I'm not the only Asian in town!)
Target's Our Generation dolls do NOT include an Asian doll. They have 24 dolls. 19 are Caucasian, and 5 are ethnic. That is TERRIBLE!!! How can that be considered "Our Generation" at all when there is no Asian representation??
Toys R Us
Nope, typical doll aisle. They did carry African-American dolls and some that I think are supposed to be Latina. No Asian baby dolls.
There is an Asian "I can be President" doll, which is HILARIOUS to me because if you are an Asian immigrant then you most certainly can NOT be president. Of all the things Asian Barbie can be, president is the least likely.
Now, Journey Girls are the Toys R Us 18" dolls. Callie is their Asian doll, which I am very GLAD that they included an Asian in their line. However Callie does NOT have eyes that are different from the other dolls. They look almost exactly the same! The only reason I know Callie is supposed to be Asian is that their real live girl model for Callie is Asian.
Upon further investigation, I was able to snag an Asian FAO Schwartz Baby Avery doll on clearance at Toys R Us, so they did carry two Asian dolls (although Baby Avery is no longer available).
I also know there are several Asian dolls available on amazon.com such as
Calin Yang, Lots to Cuddle, and this Miniland Anatomically Correct doll that smells like vanilla and is naked (WTF?). The Little Mommy Sweet As Me dolls also have Asian dolls, but I did not see any of that brand at the stores I went to. I will definitely be adding those to my daughter's wish list.
An Asian doll should not be something that I have to special order over the internet. It makes me sad that I can't walk into a store and purchase an Asian doll. We should be seeing a diverse offering in the doll aisle that represents what America really is.
Now, even if there isn't a market for Asians to buy Asian dolls and that's why the stores don't carry any, it is still important that they be offered. I want my daughter to have dolls of all nationalities to play with because that's what the world is made of. In order to truly cut down on bullying and prejudice we should start with children's toys.