As much as we may bemoan the lack of diversity in toys, there are still few options for toys that aren't white, able-bodied, and, in all probability, blonde and blue-eyed. The unending uniformity of the toy aisle is what led college student Yelitsa Jean-Charles to launch the Healthy Roots Kickstarter, which would fund a toy company devoted to teaching "natural hair care" to girls of color. What's not to love?
"It's time to bring TRUE diversity to the toy aisle," Jean-Charles writes on the project's Kickstarter page. The Rhode Island School of Design student adds that she had "many insecurities" as a child thanks to beauty standards that idealize thin, white, ultra-feminine women and fail to represent anyone who doesn't fit that mold.
Research has consistently shown that the dolls we play with as children influence our later development; in 1947, the famous "Clark Doll Test" showed that children of color were outright negatively affected by dolls conforming to European beauty standards. Decades later, the toy market remains largely dominated by that exact type of doll.
Fortunately, that's where Healthy Roots comes in. "Healthy Roots teaches girls of color self-love through education, diversity, and positive representation," Jean-Charles writes. If funded, the toy company aims to produce a line of dolls and books featuring four best friends, Zoe, Dara, Gaiana, and Marinda.
Each girl hails from a different culture. According to the Daily Dot, Zoe is an African-American bookworm; Dara is a website coder from Nigeria; Gaiana is a Haitian music lover; and Afro-Brazilian Marinda loves science and sports. It's too bad they're not real, because these girls sound like BFF material.
Currently, Healthy Roots has raised more than $12,000 in two days, and they have the better part of a month to reach their goal of $35,000.
If Healthy Roots succeeds in its funding, which it almost certainly will, it will join a growing number of dolls dedicated to introducing diversity into the Pink Aisle. Earlier this year, British toy company Mixis added to their line of "Toy Like Me" dolls, which features dolls with hearing aids, burns scars, and other characteristics that you don't normally see in toys. Similarly, Lammily, aka the "Average Barbie Doll," allows kids to add imperfections like acne, stretch marks, and cellulite, making her look like — gasp!! — a normal human being. Crazy, right?Other dolls like Feral Cheryl and Prettie Girls! offer alternatives to American culture. Feral Cheryl, admittedly, is just a hilariously bohemian anti-Barbie, but the Prettie Girls! line includes dolls from South Asian, African, and various other cultures.
Isn't it time we see some variety in the Pink Aisle? To donate to Healthy Roots, head over to its Kickstarter page.