Gay Mackie

The golliwog furore is not ‘a world gone mad’, it’s a world growing up

golliwogs

The social media backlash against the golliwog dolls at the Adelaide Fair is legitimate. Just because it made sense to you as a child doesn’t mean it should as an adult.

 

 

When I was a little girl, I collected golliwog dolls. I l slept with them, I fed them, and I chatted with them as if they were family. After I moved out, my seventeen-strong collection had the run of my childhood bed. Every time I’d visit my parents, I’d visit them too.

 

 

Through the transmuting of time, my collection now represents something negative. It was a difficult thing to accept, people saw hate, I only saw love. Because of that, I fought it for the longest time. They weren’t racist, or evil, or shameful, they were just dolls. With that being said, I’ve accepted it, and I realise what they represent.

As a child I didn’t know anything better, but as an adult, there are opportunities to reflect.

The golliwog doll is an easy metaphor for the traditions we cling to. They forever represent a period of time where we were unfettered. Things we easier, the choices were made for us, and every harsh moment has been polished smooth by the buffer of nostalgia. In the words of Kurt Vonnegut, it was a time where everything was perfect, and nothing hurt. We were told things by those we trusted, those who protected us, so we trusted what they told us to be true.

I have a bit of a theory on why we’re not great at tearing down tradition, because we believe the traditions are us. It’s what we know. If what we treasure gets trashed, then we leap angrily in defence. It’s why marriage equality was a close-run thing, it’s why we still celebrate Australia Day on January 26, and it’s why we’ve only had one female Prime Minister. We know what we know, because we lived it. It worked in the past, so it should work now.

But, when we look back, we’re not really looking. If we did, we could see that we chose not to look back then. We found it ok to create these caricatures for our children to play with. We chose to ignore how it made the indigenous population feel, and now, years down the track we’re crying foul of a PC culture gone mad, not reflecting on us, but instead taking at the construction the molehills on social media over nothing. There never was a problem before, now there is.

We’re the problem, times change, and that is normal. Which is not a negative thing, as we tore down the restrictive standards our parents kept us to. When I was a kid, women weren’t allowed to work after marriage, we needed our husband’s permission to apply for a passport, and we couldn’t drink in the same establishments as they did.

Times do change, and people along with it.

 

 

With that being said, our challenge is the same as the kids of today will soon face. Guys, one day, your ‘wokeness’ will be challenged, as something you view as valuable (or warmly innocuous) will be seen as backward or conservative; an off-colour curio of a less enlightened time.

I hope you approach it openly.

 

 

 

 

Gay Mackie

Gay Mackie is a retired print journalist, who spends her time at yoghurt (yoga), tap dancing and asleep between the hours of 2-4pm. She'd also like to make it clear that the Editor-in-Chief of The Big Smoke is her grandson.

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