Dolls of Color Month is an annual event on Instagram that strives to highlight all the beautiful dolls of color in people’s collections and honor their stories and cultures. The event was started a few years ago and originally only lasted for a week. Desiree Ortega, one of the founders of Dolls of Color Week, tells how it started: “I used to be part of a collab account with some agigers (American Girl instagrammers) called @agigfeminists, and we were talking about how we never see DOCs on our [Instagram] feed. I was like, ‘What if we just posted DOCs for a week?’ And that’s how it started.”
Since then, Ortega has run the event herself through her own Instagram account, onceuponanamericangirl. DOC Week was expanded to a month this year because Ortega received many inquiries as to when DOC Week was happening. With all the interest surrounding it, she decided to extend the event, providing a list of daily themes to inspire people’s doll photography. Themes range from abstract concepts such as “diversity” or “beauty” to more concrete themes like “travel” and “careers”. The list can be found on her Instagram page.
Since DOC Month was founded amongst the American Girl doll community, most of the participants have posted photos of AG dolls or their smaller companions, the Wellie Wishers. All dolls are welcome however, and participants are encouraged to tag their photos with #docmonth so that they can easily be found and appreciated by others. There are currently 3,675 posts with #docmonth, and the number is growing every day!
It’s a wonderful thing to see all the beloved dolls of color in people’s collections. Many people have backgrounds for their dolls, sharing not only their names, but also their country of origin, their personality, their faith. Participating in Dolls of Color Month has led many people to reflect upon their collections and desire to diversify them, buying dolls with different skin tones, cultures and practices from their own. Many people write on the different theme of the day at length. What does “faith” mean to them? How are different standards of beauty perceived around the world? Why is it important to have dolls that look like you? Why is it crucial to have dolls that don’t?
While I was browsing through Instagram users’ pages with the #docmonth, one story in particular truly touched my heart. It told of a grandmother receiving the first doll who looked like her. On her page, edaj_echaj writes: “My grandmother was never given any toys, but she talks about how happy she was when, as a child in Slovakia, she found a doll with no limbs that someone had thrown out. My grandmother has also heard, her entire life, that Roma and other people of color are inferior. She had never seen a DOC other than a couple of the kids’ dolls. Imagine her joy when we gave her this doll, whom we received from the very kind @disconightwing. She just kept repeating what a beautiful expression the doll has, how soft her hair is, what lovely skin tone she has, and how neat it is that her eyes open and close. We share a birthday, and I have to say that giving this doll to my grandma is way better than receiving a doll myself.”
There aren’t enough dolls of color out on the market today. Sadly, sales records show that they don’t sell as well as their fair-skinned, blonde haired counterparts. Thus doll collections tend to skew white and fail to show the world as it really is: a myriad of skin tones, body shapes and facial features. This is not right. Every person should be able to find a doll that looks like them. Even if they’re a minority, even if they don’t have the money to buy many toys for themselves or their loved ones, they should be able to see a doll who shows that people like them are seen, that they matter. When children play with dolls, it helps them form an understanding of what the world is like and how it works. It is vital that white children see that there are non-white people in the world and that children of color know that white Western fashions are not the only standard for beauty, that they are also beautiful enough to have a pretty doll that looks like them. Things are getting better. Many times I’ve heard people say, “I wish there were dolls like this when I was a kid”, pointing to dolls they feel represent them, dolls outside the cookie cutter mold. There’s still plenty of work to be done though, and much more progress that must be made.
Do you wish there were more dolls of color out there? Then show your support by buying the dolls that are out on the market now. Although they may be more limited, there are several doll lines that produce beautiful dolls of color like Hearts for Hearts Girls, The Divah Collection and FRESH dolls. Many popular doll lines such as Ever After High or Descendants dolls have a few DOCs among their ranks. American Girl offers Truly Me Dolls, made in a variety of hair colors and skin tones to match a large range of looks. Buy them and give them to a child. Or keep them for yourself – they’ll display beautifully. If there is to come a difference in the diversity of dolls on toy shelves today, there needs to be support for the colored dolls currently there.
If you would like to participate in DOC Month, please do! All photos from current participants can be found under #docmonth, and the list of themes for this year is on onceuponanamericangirl’s Instagram page, linked above. It’s truly beautiful to see so many doll lovers coming together and inspiring each other with the pictures and stories of their dolls. I hope that these photos bring joy and encouragement to every Instagram feed they appear on, and that this is only the beginning of many DOC Months to come.
For more great photos from DOC Month, check out the gallery below!