So a few years ago I bought the Little One a Fancy Toy from a Fancy Catalog and got on a few mailing lists. One day when I was home sick I was leafing through it and realized that, hey, you know what? Some of these toys are really rather racist. Thus this post.
This list is meant to be satire and funny. It is meant to recognize the ridiculousness and absurdity of some of these high end toys. It is meant to make fun of the holier-than-though attitude written into the product descriptions. And it is meant to point out the casual yet horrible stereotypes this company promotes and produces. Don’t get me wrong, if I had endless money I would love to give (and heck, receive) many of the toys in this catalog. They have some really, really cool stuff. The selection below is merely the most egregious examples of hipster-toys-gone-too-far. And also, you know, white people who see nothing wrong with the fact that it’s 2016 and they are selling play tomahawks, for crying out loud.
Full disclosure: I got this idea from this post, http://adequateman.deadspin.com/the-2015-hater-s-guide-to-the-williams-sonoma-catalog-1746862116. And all the images in this post were taken from the Magic Cabin website at http://www.magiccabin.com.
Pirate Ship and Pirates
Ahoy there! If you’re raising children of color and want them to have positive role models in organic wooden dolls, look no further than these pirate dolls, which feature one of the few play figures of color in the entire catalog in the form of a swashbuckling (what the feck does that even mean) sailor who is out for blood and treasure. While you’re at it, throw in the only disabled doll this company offers in the form of a captain with a peg leg. Two stereotypes for the price of six!
(image of a wooden pirate ship and 6 wooden/cloth pirates, one of whom is person of color, in colorful felt clothes.)
Price: $32.98 – $259
In case it is not apparent from the description and photos: these are legos (trademarked). They are fancy, eco-friendly cherry wood legos, to be sure, but when it comes down to it……they are legos. Some time ago, some brilliant Danish person came up with the great idea to make tiny, attachable bricks that adults and children love. Today, you can get legos in every shape, size, and color imaginable. If you have a fandom, they have a lego set for it. The only problem with legos, however, is that they are – gasp! – plastic. How you could even consider letting Mildred and Tobias play with something plastic is beyond me. Sure, the original legos are colorful and these are all the same pale blonde wood which matches the children’s hair, but the kids can color and paint these so that you can be reminded of how terrible their fine motor skills were for years to come! And if you isolate them enough so that they do not know media exists, you can also hold off on the begging for the Star Wars sets or the Harry Potter sets or the Women in Science sets (which is pretty cool.)
Real question here: do the eco-friendly cherry wood non-legos hurt when you step on them with bare feet? If so, maybe they are worth the cost.
(image of pale blond bricks that look exactly like legos, but wooden.)
Deluxe Wool Felt
Is it made of wool, or is it made of diamond unicorn droppings? I don’t know. But at eight dollars a piece, or less when you buy it in sets, I’m betting there’s something special about it, besides the fact that it is 100% wool and imported from Europe. Sure, you could get the same thing on amazon for next to nothing, or get (gasp!) synthetic felt at the craft store for 30 cents a piece, but this is real wool. From real sheep, not plastic sheep. Can you imagine giving your children anything else to cover in glitter and tear into pieces? I certainly can’t.
(image of felt in a variety of colors.)
Price: from $7.98 for an individual piece of 18 inch felt, to much more for packets of it.
Food Truck Play Set
Although ultimately losing to the above Eco Bricks, the wooden Food Truck Play Set was a runner-up for the winner of the Most Hipster Toy Ever contest this year. It’s not enough for children to just use ordinary blocks or playgrounds to pretend to be today’s consumers of street food, no, they must also have this Food Truck set. Despite the fact that the majority of food trucks sell ethnic cuisine from around the world, this food truck set reinforces the idea that Americans should only eat ice cream and pizza* by providing tiny wooden examples of each. Don’t forget your ethnically-ambiguous servers to go with them.
*seriously I’ve seen a ton of food trucks, they are wicked popular in my area, yet they don’t ever have a pizza food truck because good pizzas require huge ovens. Pizza is just not part of food truck culture, period.
(image of 4 dolls, two with light hair, two with dark hair maybe meant to be Hispanic, posed around a blue wooden food truck with wooden ice cream and wooden pizza.)
Frontier Fun Dress-Up Sets
Are you tired of not being able to buy high-quality culturally offensive toys for children? Well, look no further than Magic Cabin, which has decided to bring back the 1950’s with ‘frontier accessories’ made in Germany, where at least some people are following in their ancestors footsteps with the demonization of certain groups. Let your child pretend to scalp their friends with the tomahawk or the knife! Conveniently ignore the fact that feather headdresses are part of sacred cultural and spiritual rites to certain groups of Native Americans – laugh as your lily-white child dresses up and makes ‘war whoops’. Don’t forget the bow and arrows to shoot the ‘bad guys’ with. Not included are blankets infected with smallpox or any evidence of the genocide white people committed against Native Americans. Also not included is black oil that your children can smother their brown friends with as they explain that an oil pipeline is more important than Native graves and Native lives.
(image of a blue wooden knife/sheath, a wooden bow and arrows set, a tomahawk, a feathered necklace and a feathered headdress.)
Price: $24.98 – $39.98
Wee Wild Westerners/ Lil’ Log Cabin
Magic Cabin would like you to know that it is totally okay to mix up separate nations and cultures and treat them as one indistinguishable group, so long as they all wear feathers as part of their costumes and you call them Native American Braves, instead of Indian Brave. They’d also like you to teach your children that white people was the only acceptable color of pioneers, and that they made cute furniture our of natural Baltic birch and solid pine. Magic cabin boasts that the accompanying ‘Lil’ log cabin’ will last for generations, ensuring that a hundred years from now the same tired stereotypes can educate and inform your descendants.
(Image of a ‘Native American’ family in some odd mash up of clothing and feather headdresses as well as a white family in traditional western garb, and a wooden cabin with tiny white people and tiny wood furniture inside.)
Price: $12.98- $149 (for all the dolls) up to $359 (for dolls, cabin, and furniture.)
How do you raise a white child to not be racist? How do you raise a child of color with their self-esteem intact? How do you explain to children of indigenous people why it is okay for other kids to take the sacred objects of their culture as toys? I have no answers, only more questions.
Why is it that there are baby dolls of color and some dollhouse dolls of color in this catalog, yet many of the playthings have to do with magical beings such as elves, fairies, and gnomes, and none of them – none of them! – have darker skin? Why do they have diverse models and not diverse dolls? Why in the world is their doll nativity set all white, including the three kings? For gracious sakes, you have a black child model playing with them!
In order to raise consciousness, in order to raise community, in order to raise the world up to the level on which we are all recognized as equal human beings, we need to start small. With something as small as a doll or a playset. We need to acknowledge racism when we see it, and call it out, and say: this isn’t right.