Sunday, June 17, 2012

warning this post contains the n word

Sometimes things go in threes, which I took as a sign I might just as well take a punt on posting this post. Well, it's up to more than three now, anyway.

Firstly, there was Jeff Kennett's vigorous defence of golliwogs after the Oprah team asked a Melbourne store to remove gollis from their window display.

Next, Mother Christmas gave yours truly what young grand-niece J calls a "dollywog":


[Please forgive the lousy photography - long story short my phone is the only camera available at the moment.]

Naturally I was asked what name I should bestow on dolly. Having waited nearly 60 years to have such a dolly, I did just happen to have a name ready. Her name is Martha. Not because nearly every black maid in old hollywood plantation classics is a Martha Washington [offsider of the faithful retainer Thomas Jefferson] but because "Martha slave ran away".
[Don't blame me - I didn't make the movies I just watch them when I need a laugh].

If you are still talking to me, let me show you the difference between a dollywog [as above] and what the average Australian [i.e. anyone as irreverent as myself] would call a stereotype:


The Other and I were in the city recently and passed a shop full of golliwogs which all had slave names and in other ways played on negative stereotypes. We did smile but agreed that is probably going too far.

Then Aunty, who has recently been through that horrible task of sorting the contents of her home and deciding what to give to whom and what to hang on to for now, unpacked her Uncle's old egg cup [i.e. more than 90 years old]

egg head

Well, I seriously doubt great great uncle or my own Aunt were racists as 3 or 4 years old as they probably never saw anyone with even a half-way decent tan til they were 40 or 50 years old.  [And yes, we do accept responsibility for what happened to our own indigenous people]. Now that we know better about the history of African Americans, should she throw it away?

BTW, Whoopi Goldberg collects this sort of crap and quite right too, because why should history be sanitised? 

Not so long ago another blogger posted something which did NOT mention golliwogs but which nonetheless got me thinking. I won't provide a link because if this post offends anyone it is my responsibility and no one else's.

As a little aside on the same theme, let me mention my teenage addiction to Agatha Christie's detective novels, the best of which was called 'Ten Little Niggers'. The plot was devilishly clever, but I can honestly say I did not understand the connection between niggers and this cover.

In fact, the illustration was so wasted on me I remember thinking how stupid putting a golliwog on the cover, and wondering what it had to do with the story.

Naturally, the title was deemed offensive so it was published in America as Ten Little Indians. Much better? Is the expression 'double standard' a reference to two flags?

Back to the here and now. This weekend I returned to Bairnsdale to finish what I had failed to finish there last trip. The Other decided to come with me so we drove, and stopped at the excellent tea rooms at Yarragon. While at the tea rooms I read an hilarious newspaper article giving examples of the difference between politically insensitive and downright offensive.

We went to the confectionery shop cos The Other loves sweet shops, and while there bought ourselves a new mug.

dishwasher proof
There is an excellent second hand bookshop at Yarragon, where I found a booklet [1974 edn] which was a joint publication of UNESCO and the Australian Government, with detailed discussions of Aboriginal Culture. I've not read it all yet, but a quick scan revealed something interesting - the entire discussion of Aboriginal culture is written in the PAST tense. Hmmm.

Bairnsdale being a long drive, I had to stop for a you and me along the way, and saw this sign in the park at Stratford upon the river Avon

Is it my imagination or is there something strange about the first item on the list of places to examine highlighting 30,000 years of indigenous culture?

Now, yonks ago I criticised Andrew Bolt for calling several people 'professional Aboriginals', and I would hate you to call me a hypocrite. Apart from the tone of the original Bolt article [sarcastic or worse, as well as incorrect], 9 million bloggers made comments under the article on the newspaper's blog, most of them deliberately hateful, and those comments were not moderated or censored in any way. No wonder a group of 9 people took him to court [asking for no money, just an apology].

So, all comments about the difference between political correctness and incorrectness, the merits or otherwise of censorship etc etc are welcome, but anything I deem politically offensive will be deleted.


  1. Crap.

    I had all these racist feelings I wanted to get off my chest. But now your last paragraph ruined that all for me.

    I hope your little dolls come alive and bit you when you're asleep.

    1. Dina, we have two schnauzers who have been carefully trained to attack dolls that have teeth.

      [And I'll have you know it took me a long time to stop laughing at your "crap" comment so I could type the first line above.]

    2. And look....I just gave you a perfect example of my talent at typos.

    3. I didn't want to say anything, I thought it was just your accent.

  2. Okay...seriously though.

    I think it's hard to figure out what politically incorrect stuff is okay, and what's not okay.

    Sometimes it's hard to tell when someone is being serious or satirical.

    Some things that bother me....

    People who insist they're not prejudice because they had a friend who is black....or their father once had a friend who's Asian. So of course they're not prejudice.

    I'm also bothered by people who feel free to speak their mind in an incorrect way when it comes to various races and religions. But then they're hypersensitive when something is said about their own group.

    People who act like they're doing me a favor by tolerating me, since they usually hate everyone else in my group. "I usually hate Americans, and of course you should understand why. But you're pretty decent." Yes, it's a compliment. And I appreciate that. But the offensive part outweighs the compliment.

    1. Yes, I agree with all of that. And like Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard saying some of their best friends are gay.

      Seriously, some of my best friends are heterosexual Americans, but you don't hear me bragging about that, now do you?

    2. AND, now that I think of it, I am inclined to be a little put out when people say "I am allowed to trash group X because I'm one of them, but you are not allowed to."
      [When they are serious, that is, and not just taking the mickey out of a stereotype].

    3. I think I'm guilty of that attitude sometimes.

      Sorry : (

      You're right though. It's wrong.

    4. Don't know if wrong is an absolute in this context. Maybe what bothers me is if I find someone obnoxious saying obnoxious things about a group of people it's obnoxious to me personally because I'm not overly fond of groupism.

      For example, it seems the [Asian] Indians in Melbourne think Australians are all dumb, drunk and racist. [don't know if you'll have access, Dina but it sounds interesting..]

      Now, I might be inclined to agree with them a little. [Esp after a trip on the Frankston line].

      Here's the political correctness /stereotype issue again. I don't agree with them a little because I'm Australian myself, but because I agree with them a little. It doesn't offend me that much, because I know who I am... it disappoints me, though.
      We might silence people, but we can't stop them from thinking.

      On the other hand, I might have a stereotype of Indians, but not be free to voice it. Double standard. And at the end of the day, I try to see people for who they are, not what brand of grocery they have plastered on their forehead. So I don't care if they are all *****, because they aren't.

  3. I like your comment about not "sanitizing" history. It is what it is, we are supposed to learn from it not cover it up. Interesting about the Oprah comment, if those were "white" would they have asked the same thing? Just sayin...

    1. MT, I think the Oprah story reflected a bit of ignorance on our part. The English publishers who put the golliwog on that book made a connection no one in Australia had ever heard of. However, now that we all know about the connection, selling dolls with slave names sounds like the wrong kind of ignorance.

      But yes, there is no point in sanitzing anything, we learn more from the truth than from lies. And while I deeply regret what has happened to first peoples around the world [incl my irish ancestors], and to Africans in particular, feeling guilty and sanitizing aren't going to change anything.

    2. MT, I think I'd like to recant. Maybe there is something good about selling golliwogs with slave names. It could be educational.

  4. A lot of people collect the crap Whoopi does. That egg cup is probably worth a bit of money. Oh, is that the American in me talking?

    I never knew before what a golliwog is. So, would a white Raggedy Ann be a sterotype also? And, are black Barbies bad for kids? Pretending for a moment that Barbie is not bad for kids.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. oops left an important word out yet again.
      Version 2:


      Hi Rubye... when all the brouhaha over gollies got Oprahed to the surface it took me hours and hours of searching to discover the historical link between them and the subjugation/ mistreatment of African Americans [tho' now the info is everywhere]. The link is so tenuous as to be laughable - i.e. a book published in 1895 featuring a rag doll dressed in the style of minstrel - the origin of that in turn being 'USian'.

      On the other hand, the Agatha Christie bookcover does suggest that in England at least some did associate gollies with people of African appearance - though not necessarily in a negative way.

      It's wonderful to hear an American comment that she never knew before what a golliwog is. The furore here erupted precisely because a) kids love rag dolls and b) they are harmless and c) where's the criminal intent if we didn't understand the link to the racism because we didn't understand the link to minstrelsy which we didn't know was itself racist?

      If I made a Raggedy Anne I must confess, given my lack of manual dexterity, it would be white trash. Are you telling me there are black Barbies? Is there a version of that skinny witch yet that is flexible enough to stick her finger down her throat?

      All of which is just to say it's all a storm in an egg cup.

    3. Let's put it this way - there are Barbie dolls that are painted with darker skin and are called African American by the Barbie people.
      You're funny!

    4. They openly market these things as African American?
      Seriously? Not just as dolls like any other dolls that look different?
      Will Hispanic Americans - as an increasingly significant portion of the USian population - be miffed if they do not soon get their own doll?

      What's the name of the African American doll? [Obviously not Barbarella because she grew up white but became a 'red'.]

      If I can go into a coffee shop ask for a half-soy half-skinny dairy half-decaf with a dash of vanilla and one artificial sweetener... can I have a doll with black and white hair with curly red streaks, one blue eye and one brown, and an orange spotted face?

      The world is funny, Rubye.

  5. Very amusing repartee. Dina, if you are still tuned in, I can honestly say I have never heard or read anyone say that they hate Americans. Puzzled by, yes. Their lack of knowledge of the world, yes. I could go on, but most of the anti American feeling is against the government and its policies. Perhaps one day I will write a post about what we admire about Americans.

    1. Maybe "hate" was too strong of a word.

      I've never had someone say those exact words to me (what I put in quotes). It's more of an attitude I've seen.

      If that makes sense.

  6. I love Golliwogs and they were influenced from the Egyptians working for the British who occupied Egypt early 1900s.
    I don't doubt Golliwogs were taken to USA and then modelled on the slaves, but we just never associated Golliwogs with any dark skinned people here in Oz.
    I often lament the lack of Aboriginal, Asian, Muslim dolls in mainstream toys - like soapies, they seem to have been homogenised.

    The White Womans Waterhole was named to memorialise the tragedy caused by Angus MacMillin making up the story of a white woman being held captive by the Gunai Kurnai People to justify large scale killings.

    1. Jayne YOU ARE MAGIC- I was too busy being pompous to look for the story behind the White Woman's Waterhole. Thank You.