Recently, Mattel, the manufacturers of Barbie, announced that they are adding three new body types — curvy, tall and petite — to their existing doll range. Barbies will also come in seven skin tones, 22 eye colors and 24 hairstyles.
Growing up in the UK, the Barbie experience never really resonated with me. Yes, I saw Barbie dolls growing up and my sister and I played with them at Toys ”R” Us every Christmas, but I’ve never actually owned one. I never paid attention to Barbie’s body type, though I do understand why many people have criticized it. Her body type is unrealistic and her blond hair and blue eyes demonstrate only one specific form of beauty. My cousin doesn’t even allow her three-year-old daughter to play with Barbie dolls because she wants her to understand that beauty comes in many forms. With this announcement, it seems like Mattel is finally telling the world that there are different kinds of beauty, and they come in seven skin tones, 22 eye colors and 24 hairstyles.
When a major brand or the media takes a step like this toward inclusivity, our first reaction is to applaud them. But let’s take a step back and ask ourselves…why does this even matter? Do we need different types of Barbie dolls to teach young girls that there are different types of beauty? I don’t need a Barbie doll that looks just like me to know that I’m beautiful. While I celebrate all steps toward inclusivity and commend Mattel for their announcement, we shouldn’t need to look to our environment to determine what’s beautiful – that should come from within.
Mattel’s decision to create a more diverse line of Barbie dolls reflects the ongoing changes that are happening across the media; in film, music, fashion and now the toy industry. Does Mattel merit the applause? Or did they just respond to pressure from society to be more inclusive and accepting of diversity?
We as a society are becoming so conscious of diversity that we’re beginning to require it in all aspects of daily life, which certainly has positive effects. However, sometimes I feel like we’re so diversity-conscious that we’re unintentionally undermining what we set out to accomplish. Can a black girl only play with a black doll? Or can a curvy girl only play with a curvy doll? Is it possible that by creating these different types of Barbie dolls, we’re actually limiting the ways we see diversity?
Thanks to Mattel, we now have four body types, seven skin tones and twenty-something eye colors reflected in plastic dolls. It’s hard to tell whether Mattel’s push for inclusivity reflects a deep-rooted change in society, or if it’s just the superficial, diversity-conscious pressure we’ve come to expect. Wherever this movement comes from, I hope that we continue to push for diversity in the flesh and not just plastic. But for now Mattel, I applaud you.