Janet Jackson fans are up in arms after the singer shared this photo of a gift she received from a fan along with the tweet, “During the tour, I was given this doll named Maria. She was advertised as lifelike. How does Maria make you feel?”
The doll is a “gollyy doll” or “Gollywogg” based on a character from a series of 19th century children’s books. From Wikipedia:
The “Golliwogg” (later “Golliwog”, “golly doll”) was a character in children’s books in the late 19th century and depicted as a type of rag doll. It was reproduced, both by commercial and hobby toy-makers as a children’s toy called the “golliwog”, and had great popularity in North America, Europe and Australia, into the 1960s. The doll has black skin, eyes rimmed in white, clown lips, and frizzy hair, and it has been described as “the least known of the major anti-Black caricatures in the United States”. While home-made golliwogs were sometimes female, the golliwog was generally male. For this reason, in the period following World War II, the golliwog was seen, along with the teddy bear, as a suitable soft toy for a young boy.
The image of the doll has become the subject of heated debate. One aspect of the debate in its favour argues that it should be preserved and passed on as a cherished cultural artifact and childhood tradition. At the same time, others argue that the golliwog is a destructive instance of racism against people of African descent, along with pickaninnies, minstrels, mammy figures, and other caricatures. In recent years, changing political attitudes with regard to race have reduced the popularity and sales of golliwogs as toys. Manufacturers who have used golliwogs as a motif have either withdrawn them as an icon, or changed the name. The association of Gollywogs with the pejorative term “wog” has resulted in use of alternative names such as “Golly” and “Golly doll.”
I believe I tracked down the source for the particular golly doll received by Janet Jackson on an Australian website for The Ugg Boot Lady. It’s actually sold as part of the “Golly Family Number One” which includes four dolls – two adults and two children with a male and female of each. Here’s a photo:
The description of the set of dolls, which goes for $17.50AU (Right around $18.15US), reads, “With their bright smiling faces and colourful outfits, these little dolls are sure to delight any boy or girl.”
That description is in need of a serious rewrite.