Small ads

Golliwogs for sale

From Bob F

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Goodness me! What is the problem with selling golliwogs? It is the same as buying Chinese or Russian dolls surely? This really has taken the anti racism opinion too far.

From Julie C

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

If you, a member of your family or friends had ever been called the offensive term 'wog' then I think you'd get it. It's not referring to the country someone comes from, nationality is not the same as race /gender /sexuality - these are a part of you as a human being. I am pleased to say that being offensive in this way is not legal any more.

From Tamara Selby

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

This is a preposterous discussion. I have many friends who are from ethnic backgrounds who don't find golliwogs offensive. Methinks the definition should be looked up on Wikipedia. Next people will be saying golli is offensive. Oh golly gosh!

From Dave R

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

I seem to recall that this issue was raised in another tourist town, maybe Haworth or Ilkley? The same arguments were used for and against. From recollection, I think the term 'golly' is used for these black faced toys now, rather than the previous and that seen as more derogatory: golliwog.

I don't think, and never have thought that Gollies were racist, offensive or a bad idea. They were cute little black faced teddies, and you saw them on jam jars, much like Tony the tiger was on Kelloggs Frosties. By the same reasoning, black jelly babies were not banned because they looked like naked plump black babies, (any more than the red ones were).

Jump on the discrimination wagon by all means if this is happening but it would seem it is not the toy that offends but the incorrect use of it's name.

If you don't like them, don't buy them. If you don't wish your children to covet them, tell them of your views and refuse to buy them one, but for goodness sake please stop this nanny state attitude of if it offends someone it offends all.

From Kez Armitage

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

The trouble with publicising an issue such as this is that it polarises opinion. Some will be dutifully outraged and sign the petition (not that it will do any good at all), but others will take the attitude 'Oh for goodness' sake, it's only a child's toy from the past'. I suspect, however, that the vast majority, who were probably totally unaware of the sale of golliwogs in Hebden Bridge and to be honest, couldn't care less, will heave a sigh as the politically correct brigade try to control our lives yet again.

And it's worse than that. Drawing attention to something like this can unfortunately backfire, and have a totally unintended outcome. A few years ago, one of the Tintin books, Tintin in the Congo, came under attack from campaigners wanting it banned (and if you think golliwogs are politically incorrect, you ain't seen nothing until you read that Tintin book). The result? Well it became by far the best selling book in the Tintin series and had to be reprinted (albeit with a warning band wrapped round, advising people of the contents). I've already heard someone remark, re golliwogs: 'It makes me want to go out and buy one immediately!'

I think golliwogs (usually just called 'gollies' incidentally) should stay on sale. If your child asks about them or even wants one, it's a good opportunity to explain our colonial past, slavery, and the days of troupes of musician minstrels. Rather than try to sanitize the past by denying the existence of gollies, let them stay and serve as a message to future generations, and let those generations make their own minds up. Doing otherwise - in effect denying the past - establishes a dangerous precedent. We have so much to learn from history, and for heaven's sake, life's too short!

From Benny M

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Having spent forty five years dealing in ethnic art I must point out that all period African and Asian art is littered by observational skits on white colonial invaders, some of it quiet amusing and all in the best possible taste. What's good for the Goose is good for the Gander or is that sexist?

From Paul Clarke

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

I was wondering how long it would be before the tired old 'nanny state' cliche was wheeled out.

Is this the same 'nanny state' that brought in laws to prevent being being abused because of their race /gender /sexuality?

From Jenny B

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Oh for goodness sake! Stir up a very old and tired debate about a toy and let the petty swiping and political point scoring begin.

If toy gollies really were racist they would surely be banned by the jolly well do as we say do-gooders and like the golly in Blyton's Noddy erased from childhood literature.

How dare our funky oh so Hebden Bridge town be so politically incorrect as to sell these offensive creatures?

You could even think that some would not be happy until they are all removed from the shelves of our local toy shop, and ceremoniously burnt in the square.

Having recently watched the film 12 years a slave, I see little connection between a theatrical toy depicting a mime artist or a minstrel and slavery.

What next? Ban butchers because they sell dead animals?

From Robin Marsden

Thursday, 20 March 2014

I used to live in Brixton and there was a specialist golliwog shop there specialising in rare and antique golliwogs and it certainly didn't offend the large local black population. In fact it was a thriving business with an excellent reputation and was run by black people. I'd like your opinions on that please.

From Mal Campbell

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Could you provide any more information on this shop Robin? My searches aren't coming up with anything.

What does come up when you search the term 'golliwog' is page after page of news articles such as the man sent to prison for hanging a life size golliwog while dressed in KKK robes, parents complaining about them being included on a school mural, protests outside shops that sell them - even the Daily Mail concedes that the golliwog is 'seen at best as racially insensitive and at worst as racist and vicious'.

I don't agree that having this debate is counter productive. I can see that there are people unaware how these toys from their youth are offensive to a lot of people - both black and white.

From Graham Barker

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Mal Campbell says 'there are people unaware how these toys from their youth are offensive to a lot of people'. As a person of age I find that quite patronising. One could turn his sentence on its head and say 'there are people unaware that toys from yesteryear are not offensive if understood in context'.

The Fothergills USP is to theme itself as a 1940s time capsule, so if they're displaying a golliwog alongside other commonplace 1940s artifacts, it's in context. It helps illustrate how different things were back then, and it's valid to make the point that not everything that was acceptable in the 1940s is acceptable now. The owners of the shop don't deserved to be vilified for that and are doing nothing illegal. If they were actively selling golliwogs it might be a different matter, but as I understand it that isn't the case.

I suppose I could go on until I'm blue in the face (am I offending anyone there? Celts, perhaps?) explaining, as others on this thread have done, that in its day the golly was not seen as having any connection with race. And it was customarily golly, rarely golliwog.

What also needs to be understood by young whippersnappers is that the charge of racism is of relatively recent origin. To my mind it's counter-productive to apply it retrospectively, and often unfairly, to hugely popular cultural products of their time such as the Black & White Minstrels, TV sitcoms, the Biggles books, possibly Enid Blyton and certainly Tintin, as Kez Armitage points out. And golliwogs.

Tastes and sensitivities change over time, and by and large people understand the need for change and are happy to go along with it without fuss. They do however appreciate the occasional reminder of how things once were.

But to the self-appointed Hebden Bridge thought police, none of that will probably carry any weight. Nothing less than a disproportionate response will do, it seems.

From Chris Barnett

Friday, 21 March 2014

I am also somewhat baffled by Robin Marsden's story of the golliwog shop in Brixton (especially as I worked in that area for a few years). Another case of put up or shut up? More info please.

From Mal Campbell

Friday, 21 March 2014

In reply to Graham Barker - I'm a person 'of age', had a golliwog as a child and I don't think it's patronising to suggest that not everyone is aware about how offensive Golliwogs are now.

By the way - if anyone wants to join the Hebden Bridge Thought Police we meet 6pm every second Tuesday in Organic House.

From Jenny B

Friday, 21 March 2014

In the context of racism, the argument around golliwogs will never go away. I do appreciate ( but not always agree) that there are people who feel strongly that these bygone toys have no place in the modern market. Much in the same way Barbie was vilified for her unreasonably proportioned figure causing angst amongst our girl children.

What I hadn't realised was that the golliwogs were in fact artefacts on display rather than for sale. If this is the case, and this minority Hebden Bridge group choose to police everything in this context, where will it end?

Slavery, racism, and other forms of discrimination are our history. To remove all 'reminders' must surely deny the success of progress to eliminate this. The Liverpool museum's history of slavery exhibition displays klu klux klan robes but I don't recall shouts to remove this, likely because it is in context.

Graham Barker is correct in saying to vilify a local business is in itself wrong.

Personally, I would rather put my energy into fighting to end female genital mutilation than worry whether a few black faced teddy bears will incite racism.

From John Rhodes

Friday, 21 March 2014

Tamara Selby says,"I have many friends who are from ethnic backgrounds". We are all from an ethnic background - it's just that some in our society are minority ethnic,for example, Afro-Caribbean as opposed to majority ethnic which is White European.

Can we not use "ethnic" as a lazy shorthand for non-white which is what, I suppose, Tamara meant.

From Allen Keep

Friday, 21 March 2014

It  always amazes me how agitated and belligerent the I'm not a racist …but /it's political correctness gone mad brigade get when  people make even a modest attempt, rightly or wrongly in terms of their particular grievance,  to oppose what they see as racism.  In this case I wonder what they are clinging onto/defending – the warm nostalgia of family friendly racism perhaps?  A time when you could watch the black and white minstrel show on a Saturday night or perhaps read your children Enid Blyton's book the three golliwogs with their lovely characters Golly, Woggie and Nigger who liked to sing their favourite song  "ten little nigger boys" ( like 10 green bottles except they all die). Perhaps afterwards you could settle down to an Agatha Christie novel of the same name which, as it is more grown up, has a picture of a golliwog being lynched on the cover. Happy, innocent days with nobody making a fuss.

Except they did, and have done for many, many years. Golliwogs for instance have always been seen as a symbol of racism by some it's not retrospective at all.  Nothing new then in raising the issue or starting a petition and just as people don't have to buy golliwogs (sorry, Gollys, if it makes people feel more comfortable) people can always not sign it - no? I don't see anyone threatening to firebomb Feathergill's (or even vilifying them) and no proposals for mass burnings in the square I am aware of. The objective seems to be If enough people  feel inclined to sign Fothergill's might have a  think about the appropriateness of their stock and their responsibilities as retailers and take a leaf out of the book of Hamley's and the Queen's estate shops (there's posh) and stop selling the things - as they did some years ago. What's good for the Goose?

By the way, is there anyone in their right mind who doesn't think the term golliwog or wog is offensive? Not terms you hear all to readily these days thankfully (largely, I would think because of the campaigning and protesting efforts of the politically correct and in partly I'm sure, as Paul explains, due the advancement in a democratic society of anti-discrimination legislation passed by the nanny state). Mind you, I seem to recall not so long ago Thatcher's daughter losing her telly job for referring to a black French tennis player as a Golliwog (perhaps if she had used the term Golly she would have kept it). Still some way to go it seems.

In which case doesn't selling toys that bear the same racist name (unless you decide to make it sound better)seem,  at best, questionable or at least something we can discuss without accusations of being the self appointed thought police/petty point scorers/bandwagon jumpers/do gooders or simply ( after two contributions!) adding to a preposterous discussion? Who is guilty of a disproportionate response here I wonder?

However sanitised they have become and despite that for many they are simply harmless nostalgic toys it is important to acknowledge that Golliwogs have always been steeped in racism and were spawned from the culture of the post slavery Jim Crow era of segregation laws in the USA. There would have been no gollywogs in 12 years a slave but they have always been a part, if a very minor one, of a tradition of stereotyping black people as primitive natives – all the better to ideologically justify slavery then segregation and institutionalised racism all the way up to the 1960's when the golliwog looked on from millions of jam jars and stared back from the wrapper of the "black jack" sweetie of my childhood while civil rights protestors did rather more than sign petitions. Personally, I think GolIiwogs are/were all the more pernicious precisely because they are toys /badges /images and various paraphernalia aimed almost exclusively at children, en masse, for much of this century. What message was being given – a benign, innocent one or one that reinforced negative racial stereotypes and therefore one that needs to be countered?

I'm happy to acknowledge there are a lot more important issues about racism than Golliwogs being sold in a Hebden shop for tourists but some of the arguments put here are simply worrying in themselves. Firstly the if you don't like them don't buy them argument serves to excuse retailers of their responsibilities in the context of equality issues and suggests all we can legitimately do is opt out. If Fothergill's chose to sell swastikas as a nostalgia item or a fancy dress shop was selling Klu Klux Klan outfits should they not be subject to challenge?

Then we have the "my friends are black/of ethnic origin etc and they don't have a problem" So what? Are we assuming that if we ask a couple of our black friends about Golliwogs and they are not bothered their responses are somehow representative of all black people?  It reminds me of the kind of statements I heard in the 70's – you know-"my mate is black we all call him Chalky, he doesn't mind it's just a laugh" etc. I haven't asked any of my black friends or colleagues about golliwogs – it's never come up and I don't feel the particular need to check out their views before I take a stance. I suspect however that there will be a range of responses from black people to golliwogs depending on their age, background, culture, beliefs, attitudes, politics etc – just like white people. I imagine that many black people of a certain generation would have personal experience of being called a golliwog themselves -I can certainly remember childhood black friends regularly being subjected to this abuse – and this would shape their response.  Younger people may wonder what the fuss is about and simply dismiss Golliwogs as ridiculous and not recognise them as a nasty stereotype of race or see the relevance to their lives.

Then we have a version of the inevitable "they are as bad as we are" argument. I know pretty much nothing about "ethnic art" but the idea that "observational skits" by the colonial oppressed can be equated with the racist cultural, ideological and "artistic" products of the oppressor is quite disturbing. I visited the museum of slavery in Liverpool recently. There is a copy of a Christmas card there sent by the owners of a slave plantation back to their family in England. It is a photograph with the white family sprawled at their leisure in their garden. Behind them are rows of black slaves with the words Happy Christmas spelled out by individual letters painted on their chests.

And whatever one thinks of Golliwogs the idea that they are just the same as Tony the Tiger is simply beyond belief.  Kez argues that mere mention of golliwogs, and questioning their legitimacy will encourage people to but them. Maybe so but arguments like those put so far make me realise that even the most innocuous of issues can reveal a whole series of attitudes towards racism that continue to need serious challenging and I will happily run the risk of taking anti-racist opinion "too far"

From Paul Clarke

Saturday, 22 March 2014

I really wish people who should know better would stop using tired cliches like 'thought police' or 'politically correct' as it makes you sound like Farage or Godfrey Bloom who revel in using those terms.

Look where that gets us.

From Chris Green

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Please stop selling Golliwog merchandise. It's really insulting that this is happening that used to be and should be associated with progressive ideas.

From Bernard B

Thursday, 27 March 2014

I've struggled to find much mention of Calder Valley Anti-Racist Collective on the internet. As I can't contact them directly, I'm posting here to ask if they also intend to take a stand against the Todmorden outdoor market stall that sells the Nazi merchandising? It's the one with the colourful red white and black flags fluttering in the breeze, you can't miss it.

See also:

HebWeb News - Remove golliwogs from local shop, urges a petition organised by the Calder Valley Anti-Racist Collective.