Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Good golly(wog)!

Nice critical journalism on page A6 regarding an outstanding issue of the day - provision of golliwogs dolls that are definitely not related to golliwogs in some awful bourgeois gift shop - "Golly dolls no different to Barbies, says store director":

A retail chain is making no apologies for selling "Golly" dolls which many people believe have racist connotations.

A full display of the Australian-designed Golly range is on show at Acquisitions St Lukes - ranging in price from $79.99 to $149.99.

Surprise surprise, Australian-designed. Well, I don't know where people are getting this idea that it is racist. I mean, it looks like a golliwog, but apart from that...

But Richard Thomson, general manager of Acquisitions, does not believe the store's dolls are offensive.

"We don't sell Golliwogs, we sell Gollys," he said. "The reason we're very careful about calling them Golly and not Golliwog is because we realise that 'wog' is an offensive term and we wouldn't want to be associated with the use of it."

Ah. I see what you've done here. They're not golliwogs at all. They're "Golly's". They're probably named that because the inventor said "Golly, that's a great idea for a doll" when he or she came up with it. Any resemblance in name or appearance to any other doll, racist or not, is entirely unintentional - like in that Law & Order episode where the famous and eccentric fictional singer dies after complications with fictional drugs prescribed by his fictional doctor.

So I would hate to break in here and claim that it's not actually the word 'wog' that offends people about golliwogs. It's the concept, and therefore the word, of the golliwog. But you wouldn't want to be associated with that.

He said the dolls had been on sale for about a month and had proved popular in the 10 stores around the country.

"They're selling exceptionally well."

Always a good test. "Is it racist?" "I dunno." "Is it popular?" "Yes." "Well it can't be racist then." "How are they selling in our Christchurch store?" "Great!"
Asked if the company had considered that some people might find them offensive, Mr Thomson said: "We recognise that's always a possibility but our view is that these are caricatures in the same way as Barbie or any other doll is.
Barbie does truly represent the horrors of the centuries-long exploitation and deprecation of tall, skinny, blonde women.
"It's very difficult to please everyone and what we do is we say: 'Look, this is our style and we sell a huge range of products and people will pick and choose the items that they like or don't like and that's absolutely as it should be."
For example, when I walk into Acquisitions St Lukes I turn my nose up at the racist doll section and proceed directly to the area festooned with Nazi memorabilia.

Anyway, it's interesting how a stupid story about a rubbish shop selling what really is a terrible piece of overpriced awfulness becomes essentially an ad for said shop, simply because the reporter involved can't manage to ask some critical questions that ought to make up Lecture Two of Journalism 101:
  • "If it's not a golliwog, why is it called a Golly?"
  • "Do you think that the use of Golliwog imagery in the context of colonialism has anything to do with the taboo attached to the figure?"
  • "You do realise that you sound like an idiot, don't you?"


  1. Cracker the friendly ghostNovember 17, 2009 at 1:10 PM

    This same guy was quoted (same quotes too as far as I can tell) in a feature in the SST Sunday magazine a few months back. It was a feature about whether or not it's racist to sell dolls that are a caricature of black people for your own entertainment as a white person. Or something.

    So this guy has already got a heap of publicity and he's been selling "gollys" for quite a while.

  2. "For me, this is a fun item that people enjoy and if people want to see it as some sort of offensive statement then really you'd probably have to see Barbie as being an offensive statement about Pakehas ..."

    Best quote ever!

    Gollywogs are ugly gremlins and Barbies are beautiful. How are they the same?

  3. Give the Aussies a break, it's not their fault they don't have any minorities* in their country and so don't understand why blackface, gollywogs etc might be offensive.

    *As is my understanding from watching documentaries on Australian life e.g. Home and Away.

  4. I bought a Golly doll because I like black people.

  5. For more on the crucial Gollywog theme, see "PC hits the Nursery" in this weekend's Herald on Sunday:

    "An Auckland Bear Park worker said she used the word catch a 'finger' by the toe instead of 'nigger' in Eeny Meeny Miny Mo so it was not racially insensitive...

    "The trend begs the question - what next? Will the Fat Controller in Thomas the Tank Engine be slimmed down to conmbat obesity? Should Little Miss Muffett give up her curds and whey because the other kids have gone dairy-free?"

    Yeah, how dare the bleeding-heart PC brigade tell us we should take the word "nigger" out of our beloved nursery rhymes?

  6. About time someone noticed these. I was shocked to see these at a couple of stores at Sylvia Park but didn't have the nerve to ask the sales person what the hell they thought they were doing selling Golliwogs. It's like selling KKK uniforms at a costume shop.

    The best quote for me from that article:

    "I marched on the Springbok tour and I'm a bleeding-heart liberal - [I] vote Labour and belong to Helen Clark's Facebook site."

    Is belonging to a Facebook group the modern version of "Some of my best friends are black"?

  7. They've been selling them -- "Gollies" or similar -- on TradeMe for years. Apparently gollies have shaken off the racist connotations and are now just cute little dolls for children.


    [see also What? They're Cute on Regretsy..

  8. As a honky-tonk I am sick of been caricatured as a tall lean muscular and potent man with good looks and an attractive blonde partner who lives in a big house and has seemingly endless accessories and mod cons at my disposal by the production of Mattel dolls. Just once I would like to be made out as genetically inferior. Gollywogs, polywogs, and the wog community in general have it so lucky over there in their state housing, with their green grass and their frumpy dolls. face-palm

  9. A good question for the reporter to ask would be:
    "What is the Maori word for Golliwog?".

  10. He did of course forget to mention the other usuage of gollie in straya:


    Mmmm...saliva doll

  11. My mum makes Gollies (gives them away, not for sale), has for decades. When I engaged her in the "but Gollies are racist" conversation, she said she'd rather see the kids around her learn something about equality from the cross section of dolls they have (gender and race).

    As for Golly vs Barbie. Oh yes, Barbie is a fine example, She of the Representation of Gender Problems.