Photograph courtesy of The Guardian
There was a very interesting article in yesterday's Guardian's [20th September] 'Comment is Free' by Lemn Sissay about the sale of Golliwogs in a shop in the Shetland Isles. Like Lemn, I am always very offended if I see these 'dolls' on sale in a shop - but instead of complaining to the shop owner, Lemn blogged about the experience and then wrote about the effects of this blog and how he felt in the Guardian yesterday.
After his original blog, there was quite a furore in Shetland and the shop owner was rather upset. The article in the Guardian yesterday is - I think - Lemn justifying his blog. It is very interesting as it details the history of Golliwogs [I do hate that word] but in a way displays a lack of understanding about the way a previous generation [he talks about an grey lady, and elderly lady. Probably my age for goodness sake!] played with these dolls without any awareness of their duplicitous meaning. Now I am older and wiser [well perhaps] and would never have bought these dolls for my children and grandchildren.
Whilst I completely agree your feelings, Lemn, when you saw the dolls on sale [I don't even want to use the 'descriptive' name of them because I feel it is that offensive] and I think your blog is fair because it describes your feelings, I think it would have been even fairer if you had explained to the little old lady that you objected to the sale of the dolls, and why.I remember having one of these dolls as a child, reading about them in Enid Blyton's books and collecting the replicas on jars of jam to get an enamel brooch [I am so ashamed of these I won't even sell them on ebay!!] But that was then, I was tiny and it was the 1950s. Now I know better and when I was staying at a resort a couple of years ago where the shop was selling plastic 4 inch such dolls I complained to the owners and they have been taken from sale. However in the Lake District last year, where all sizes of Peter Rabbits, Jemima PuddleDuck et al were being sold [at rather inflated prices] in many shops in many towns it became impractical to complain in everyone, packed as they were with tourists eager to part with their money. Was I a coward? Probably.Sometimes we get so absorbed in our justified passions that we find it difficult to step outside ourselves to see another's point of view. I can be as guilty of this as the next person. I have also been in the position where someone has unwittingly insulted me - when - as too often happens - someone shouts at me 'Are you deaf?' I don't actually feel offended because I am deaf, usually I find it funny because I realise I have covered it up rather well. On the odd day when I am in a bad mood this can upset me!! But we do need to always allow the other person to express their point of view. Even if we think, ultimately, that it is rubbish.
The photograph of you and the dolls is probably the most powerful statement of the whole piece, btw.Michael Rosen's advice was excellent. Because what children learn, the adult teaches. So Lemn, what do I conclude? Keep on blogging and complaining about the racist connotations of these iniquitous dolls. But if it is any use to you, I always warn 'subjects' if I am going to 'use' them in a rant and credit the photos. So take this as notice that I will do both! Haven't written the blog yet but it will be on http://rephidimstreet.blogspot.co.uk/ Don't worry, I have nowhere near as many readers as you!
What offends you?