Should eBay allow golliwog listings?

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A friend of Tamebay has told us that eBay has removed one of his listings because it features a golliwog.

The item in question is a repro metal plaque of an old Robertson’s Golden Shred marmalade advert from way back. You probably remember such ads. Here’s the picture:


The reason? eBay says it falls foul of a listing policy. The eBay email to the seller reads: “After reviewing your eBay account, it looks like you haven’t followed our Hateful or Discriminatory policy.”

Here’s the relevant policy rubric from eBay: “We don’t allow items that promote or glorify hatred, violence, racial, sexual, or religious intolerance, or promote organisations with such views. We also remove listings that portray graphic violence or victims of violence, unless they have substantial social, artistic or political value.” The full policy is located here.

It is easy to say that such a retro item doesn’t really seem to fall foul of the criteria or spirit of that policy. Our seller has been selling the same item for several years.

It’s an old style curio and hardly that offensive (see contemporary rap music with racially offensive lyrics that also glorify violence against women, for instance, that are freely available on eBay).

Equally, some will quite justifiably say that we don’t need such things sold in 21st century Britain. A golliwog is racially offensive to many and should not be sold. And everyone would be right.

But the real issue here is eBay’s inconsistent and unpredictable application of its own policies on sellers. Not only are similar items still up for sale at time of writing (see below) but such items are also freely available on Amazon and elsewhere online.

It’s such a well worn groove, that it’s very annoying to play the record again. But. Why can’t eBay apply its own policies fairly and consistently after all these years?

And what of counterfeits, illegal sellers and genuine fraud? You doubtless have examples in your own market area. It will irk many that golliwogs get eBay’s interest before VAT evaders and genuine wrong un sellers.

ebay golliwogs

Should golliwogs be on eBay’s priority hit list?

42 Responses

  1. I once saw inglorious basterds and das boot for sale on eBay. Doesn’t mean it was promoting violence or hate or even nazis. Comparing golliwogs to rap music is a really weak argument. KKK parapenelia, guns and switchblades are also part of some people’s culture, doesn’t mean they are suitable for sale on eBay.

  2. I was looking at my old photographs as a child yesterday, and one of them was my teddy bear collection at the age of six. Two of my favourites were my golliwogs. My young son saw the photograph and immediately told me those were his favourites.

    Florence Kate Upton came up with the golliwog in her books – it was supposed to be a positive character.

  3. My Golli charms got removed this morning from ebay. First it was Australia and then the rest followed.
    Amazon also did so in 2013.
    When Amazon removed my golli dolls in 2013, I phoned them to ask what other items I should I remove. Mad Mexican charms, Irish leprechauns, Essex “Shut Up” and “Whatever Charms”, Tractors for those Norfolk and Devon Farmers (ooo arrrr).
    Clog charms and windmill charms are always linked with Holland.
    Racist, YES.

    I’m from Essex and don’t get insulted when people refer to Essex people as dumb and idiots, stilettos and white mini skirts, Southend with a touch of TOWIE.

    This just drags up the Confederate Flag issue and Nazi issues all over again.

    I’m surprised Dan that you have even dared to mention “the” word here. I’m sure the police will be knocking on your virtual door shortly.

    What is Amazing, once again, is that ebay can move quickly WHEN they want to.
    BUT looking at a search of ebay uk, there’s still a few more things for them to clear up.

    Hello maldon-jewellery,

    After reviewing your account, we’ve had to take the following action:
    – Some or all of your listings may have been removed. A list of any removed items will be listed further down in this email.
    – We have credited all associated fees except for the final value fee for your listing(s).

    In accordance with feedback from our community, we have made the decision to prohibit the sale of golliwog dolls and many associated products from our site globally. We believe this is the right thing to do and is consistent with our values as a business. This is not a reflection or judgement on anyone selling the item. We thank you for your understanding and ask you to please not list these kinds of items.

    Here are the listings we removed:
    201354724684 – Golly Golli Doll sterling silver charm .925 x 1 Gollies Rag Dolls charms EC81
    201378120549 – Golly Golli Doll sterling silver charm .925 x 1 Gollies Rag Dolls charms EC75
    361203442031 – Golly Golli Doll sterling silver charm .925 x 1 Gollies Rag Dolls charms EC81

  4. “It’s a well worn groove”, it most certainly is yet it’s so very sad to see eBay take that attitude. There are two issues.

    First, a cultural misinterpretation. Does any eBay employee in California actual know what a “Robertson’s Jam Golliwog” is? So how are they then able to apply their “Policy Guidelines” to UK historical items in listings? There is no way that this item falls foul of the policy rubric quoted.

    Second, saying that is not ignoring today’s interpretation on our “Golliwog”. When we collected the labels to send off for our colourful enamelled badge, when our parents enjoyed the advertising campaign, we were blissfully ignorant that an offence may have been given. So today we smile at these items yet we also understand and that change has been brought about by . . . history. History teaches us what was right or wrong from the past so that we don’t recreate errors. So, eBay, doesn’t that mean these modern day reminders qualify as (sic) “unless they have substantial social, artistic or political value.”?

    In our “PC World” we are encouraged to bleach part of our history, to ban items that are seen as bad due to reinterpretation, that is not how you re-educate.

    Remember the issue over Confederate flags a short while ago? Today most of the eBay listings you now find on eBay using that search are books and paintings and posters either about or showing that flag. Now, those interested in that flag can learn rather than promote a message.

    BTW, you can still buy eBay listings that are that flag, or sew on badge, even a case for your I Phone . . . is it too much to hope that the eBay team tracking these down was diverted instead to hunting out Chinese fraudster? I know, I know.

    Dan is correct. That’s why one of the casualties of “political correctness” is a sense of true priority.

  5. Golliwog are offensive to black people. Surely it is not that difficult to understand why they’re banned.

  6. You still see them in vintage shops.

    I saw a watch dealer had some Nazi war memorabilia for sale on ebay the other day.

    If it were a new product it would be offensive but its very much of its time

  7. Tinker and Ian A – spot on.

    Tinker – still loads of golly-related items up on ebay last night. Either have a rule and apply it equally, or don’t. Otherwise you could be accused of discriminating (!) against individual sellers unfairly!

    Ian A – what worries me is that it’s verging on re-writing history, erasing it from our collective memories because we can’t see/refer to/collect it. ‘Twas ever thus – history is written by the victors. But if you erase it from the past, how can you ever hope to learn from it?

    My views…. for what they are worth.

  8. Maybe eBay might like to remove certain item specifics in categories if they’re so concerned about being PC. Personally I think the whole thing is mad, too many people just looking for something to be offended by.

    Collectables > Badges/ Patches > Novelty/ Message Badges
    Item Specifics…
    [Type] Badges/ Pins
    [Theme] Golly Badges

  9. It is very simple if its legal to sell then ebay should NOT be getting involved.

    If its illegal then they should get involved.

    Anything else will create an “inconsistent and unpredictable” situation. Deciding on what should be banned on a whim or for any other reason is just going to cause problems.

    There are loads of stupid things banned on ebay that are freely available in high streets and amazon.

  10. My objection is not that we cannot list our items under the title Golliwog, but that we have not been given any guidance as to how we can sell our postcards. I have noticed that “black doll” items have sold so is this acceptable? I telephoned Ebay for clarity and the girl asked me to hold on she then went away and never came back!! Please ebay make an announcement outlining your policy for all the different types of golly items. It is beginning to feel like victimisation.

  11. Despite there being an actual item specific for Robertson Golliwog’s “Collectables>Badges/ Patches>Golly Badges>Robertsons>Vintage (Pre-1990)

    ” eBay has now been cleansed of Robertson’s gollywogs. So we can all hold our heads up again while our kids play Nazi Zombie on their computers.

    It’s OK to play being Nazi’s kids because they were the enemy of half the world but we must erase a cartoon Gollywog from your memory because it was a mistake of the 70’s

    eBay should leave erasing culture to Islamic State.

  12. havent read all the comments on this topic,

    but in my opinion, they were part of history and should be allowed to be traded as such, as long as its made clear and some common sense used – eg if the seller uses hate speech.

    maybe ebay could even make a category for items like this.

    i was recently watching a clip of old 70s shows, and a show called love thy neighbour was on, i was shocked and thought, they couldnt do that now etc, but it was acceptable at one point so should be seen as progress, that we have moved (in the main) away from them ideas. however, still part of TV history so if someone wants to buy it on dvd, it should be able to be sold etc. same with the golli’s

  13. Anyone who imagines Gollys are somehow ‘promoting or glorifying hatred, violence, racial, sexual, or religious intolerance’ clearly has a few screws loose.

  14. I would normally tolerate, controversial things, including things related to race. But not this I am sorry. I am mixed race, I would class myself as black, or at least within western society that is what I am classed as, although both my grandfathers were white.

    I find these dolls incredibly offensive, please take a look at the doll. It’s just a complete embarrassment to black people. If the shoe was on the other foot I’m sure the people writing the majority of these comments would feel differently. If someone was selling memorabilia of historical value, and it is related to the Nazis I really don’t have a problem. If someone is selling white supremacist items with Nazi logos I have a problem.

    Possessing objects from the second world war is completely different to purchasing items that solely connected to racism towards one race.

    If someone purchased these unwittingly to sell, and put out a large outlay on stock and was left out of pocket, as a seller I do have a lot of sympathy for them. They should chase a refund on the grounds of not being aware these are characters that promote racism and should not even be legal in my opinion. However, anyone who purchased stock that contained anything to do with golliwogs or related articles, who also knew that it’s offensive to black people, who even suspected it has any kind of connection to racism, you deserve to have your account closed, and you really need to reevaluate your values and outlook on life .

    They are disgusting, vile objects that really do take the complete p***. Shame on the people defending the right to sell these items. I would never sell something that degraded someones race / ethnicity in this manner.

    The fact is Caucasian people find it really difficult to understand how this makes people like me feel, and always will struggle to understand. Take another look at the doll – just another in a long line of traditions that were created to degrade and humiliate black people. Educate yourselves and research the history behind the dolls.

    I would say I’m far from ‘politically correct’, more than most people could begin to imagine. But please. There are some things in life where you really need to just stand up say, that’s not right. I’m sure there’s people that will want to troll this comment, but honestly I’m speaking from the heart and hopefully someone can read this, sit back, and really take a minute to say wow.. I actually get it.


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