Since 1959, Mattel’s Barbie dolls have always represented feminine beauty. Creator Ruth Handler envisioned a doll that young girls could play with and feel inspired. If Barbie could be a doctor, other girls could become doctors, as well. Barbie dolls grew into a pop culture phenomenon, but today’s dolls look vastly different.
In September 2019, Mattel introduced gender-neutral dolls that allow children to decide the gender expression of the toy themselves. The doll can be accessorized to be a boy, a girl, neither, or both at the same time. It’s up to the child to decide, not the company.
About The Dolls
Mattel released six dolls in its new Creatable World collection. The dolls are available in a variety of skin tones, as well as a plethora of hair and clothing options, just like previous Barbie doll collections. In addition, the dolls are carefully manicured in order not to identify as a specific gender. For example, the lips are not too full, the eyelashes aren’t too long and fluttery, and the jawline isn’t as defined. The dolls don’t feature “Barbie-like” breasts or broad, “Ken-like” shoulders.
Instead, each doll in the Creatable World collection looks like a slender doll with short hair. If children wish to add hair, they can add long, lustrous wigs. The wardrobe options fit the dolls according to the gender the child chooses: hoodies, sneakers, graphic T-shirts, dresses, tutus, and camo pants.
Expressing Themselves Freely
Some consumers might be wondering why Mattel decided to launch a gender-neutral doll line. According to the toy company, the Creatable World collection aims to reflect and celebrate “the positive impact of inclusivity.” After all, the collection’s slogan reads: “A doll line designed to keep labels out and invite everyone in.”
“This line allows all kids to express themselves freely, which is why it resonates so strongly with them,” said Kim Culmone, senior vice president of Mattel fashion doll design. “We’re hopeful Creatable World will encourage people to think more broadly about how all kids can benefit from doll play.” With a nod towards transgender and nonbinary identities, Mattel is betting on where the United States is going and is choosing to be more inclusive than ever before.
Testing The Dolls
While creating the dolls, Mattel spoke to over 250 families with children who identify across the gender spectrum. “There were a couple of gender-creative kids who told us that they dreaded Christmas Day because they knew whatever they got under the Christmas tree, it wasn’t made for them,” said Monica Dreger, head of consumer insights at Mattel. “This is the first doll that you can find under the tree and see it’s for them because it can be for anyone.”
The dolls are a wonderful creation, especially to adults who identify as nonbinary. They didn’t have toys like these when they were growing up. Molly Woodstock, gender educator and co-host of the podcast Gender Reveal, commented that it’s “unarguably good that all children are being given the option to play with some sort of doll that doesn’t have a neatly assigned gender or gender roles.”
Breaking Down Gender Barriers
In the past decade, more toy companies have begun breaking down gender barriers. For example, in 2012, GoldieBox launched engineering toys geared towards young girls. LEGO made STEM toys for girls. Toymakers designed dollhouses painted green and yellow, instead of the traditional feminine colors of purple and pink. Cooking kits are entirely white, instead of decorated with flowers or butterflies.
With this popular trend, it shouldn’t be that surprising Mattel created a gender-neutral doll. Nothing comes close to the Creatable World doll. In the past, Mattel has been criticized for its lack of diversity and unrealistic portrayal of women in the Barbie doll line. It seems the doll company has taken serious steps to address this criticism and is no longer going to exclude anyone. There’s a doll for everyone now, and people couldn’t be more thankful.
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