I can often be critical of large companies and systems and the implications of their monetary goals on disenfranchised individuals, but I thought that I would start 2017 out on a positive note. In my opinion, it is extremely important to vocalize inequities and hold companies/stakeholders responsible for maintaining ethical standards. It is equally important to actively recognize positive changes made — as in the case of Mattel’s Barbie dolls.
About a month ago, I was shopping for some toys to take to a Boys and Girls Club holiday party. I found myself reliving wonderful memories from my youth and reminiscing about the cleaver games I would make up. When I wandered into the doll isle, I immediately stopped in front of a beautiful Asian doll. She was tall with long hair and bangs. She had rosy cheeks, a satiny dress, and a sweet smile. I picked up the box and stood in awe of the doll in my hands. I had one historical Chinese Barbie from the Barbies of the World line who wore a traditional dress and hairstyle, but how I would have loved to have modern Barbie dolls who mirrored my physical features!
I wrote a piece a couple of years ago called, To Girls From Consumer Culture: White is Beautiful, where I criticized Mattel for playing into colorism by lightening the black Barbies’ skin tones over the years and retiring the only Asian American Girl Doll mold. I’d like to now highlight the significant progress Mattel has made in their 2016 Barbie Fashionistas line, which features not only more inclusive racial representation of the dolls, but also a variety of different body shapes.
Barbie’s slogan is “If you can dream it, you can be it.” With the 2016 Fashionistas line, the company is staying true to this message for girls tall, short, slight, curvy, light, dark and skin shades in between. The increase in diversity in the Barbie Fashionista’s line is an especially important for girls now, when in the next few years certain identities will be under constant attack.
Mattel’s improvements deserve credit, but these steps forward won’t last without consumer input. I encourage you to utilize your purchasing power and support positive changes by companies when they do happen. We cannot say we value diversity in theory and not live it out in practice.