Golly dolls no different from Barbies, says store director

By Beck Vass

Pierre is one of the Australian-designed Golly range that caused an uproar in Britain. Photo / Richard Robinson
Pierre is one of the Australian-designed Golly range that caused an uproar in Britain. Photo / Richard Robinson

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.

Their sale sparked outrage in England in February, and the visitors' centre at the Queen's estate at Sandringham, Norfolk, removed similar toys from sale and apologised for any offence.

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."

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."

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.

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

"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 ... We just all need to lighten up a little and see things for the talent and the design that goes into them and the pleasure that they can bring.

"They only become offensive if somebody wants to make them offensive."

Mr Thomson said the Golly dolls were a collectable favourite for adults and would remain on store shelves.

"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."

The character the dolls are based on started out in 1895 as brave and lovable in children's books by Florence Kate Upton, before soft-toy versions were made. They also featured in the Noddy books of Enid Blyton.

But by the 1940s the toys began to be associated with the racial insult "wog" and by the 1960s books - many showing golliwogs as villains - were being withdrawn from libraries because they were seen as racially insensitive.

- NZ Herald

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