They might have been a popular toy last century, but in 2016 Golliwogs are undoubtedly problematic. In fact, to many, they’re just plain offensive.
Yet, despite the obvious racist baggage carried by this anachronistic toy, we continue to hear accounts of shops that choose to stock it, often justifying their decision with cries of harmless nostalgia or political correctness gone mad.
In fact, just this week Mamamia has been informed that the dolls have recently been sold at a pharmacy at one of Sydney’s major hospitals.
The visitor to Westmead Hospital contacted us after spotting a range of ‘Golli’ dolls prominently displayed in the window last week.
“I was surprised, because the patients that come to the hospital and the people who work there are quite ethnically diverse,” she told Mamamia. “So I would have thought there would be a bit more consciousness about the kind of products that you retail.”
The Golliwog as we know it today first appeared as a character in Florence Upton's 1895 children's book The Adventures of two Dutch Dolls and a Golliwogg. While ultimately kind and friendly, Upton's Golliwogg - like the toys that followed - have origins in 19th century minstrel shows, in which white people would don blackface to lampoon African Americans.
“I'm conscious of the fact that I'm a white person, and it’s not my place to say what [black people] find offensive or not," said the hospital visitor, "but overall I do think it’s still an offensive image.”
When contacted by Mamamia, Westmead Hospital distanced itself from McBeath's Pharmacy, saying it is "privately run and not associated with the hospital or LHD [local health district]."
Meanwhile, Peter McBeath, owner of the business, said he and his employees were horrified that they had caused anyone offence.
"Can I just assure you that we are anything but racist in our approach to staff customers or anything we do," he told Mamamia. "The majority of my staff are not Anglo Saxon and come from various parts of the world."
McBeath said the decision to stock the toy was made by young staff who weren't aware of racist connotations that Golliwog dolls carry.
"Far from being disrespectful, they just saw them as a representation of cultural diversity in our business and what they really love about Australia - that it's very different.
"Yes, it's an ignorance thing," said McBeath, "We can't change it now, but I can assure you that these products won't be stocked in my pharmacy again."
This is not the first hospital outlet to have been chastised for selling the dolls this year. In February, ACT Health was forced to remove Golliwogs from the auxiliary at Canberra Hospital after a visitor tweeted her outrage.
Feature image: supplied.