We’re just gonna come out and say it: We love a Barbie. (Have you seen the new Barbie wall in our Slabtown location?)
Making her debut in 1959, Barbara Millicent Roberts (aka Barbie) has spent the last 64 years causing equal parts joy and angst—gracing the hands of countless children, warranting her own special flavor of pink, inspiring innumerable songs, shows, and due out in July, even a movie for grownups. An ever-present reference to which even folks living under the deepest of rocks are familiar, few toys have sustained or had a cultural impact in quite the same way Barbie has; in a word, she is simply iconic.
But there is one thing we really don’t love about being in the Barbie World. While she has been made in the likeness of damn near every job and occasion known to humankind, there is one thing she’s rarely been considered: inclusive.
You see, while Barbie has introduced various dolls somewhat aimed at inclusivity over the years, many of them have either missed the mark, were only offered as limited editions, or even worse, did more harm than good by playing into and perpetuating stereotypes. By and large, the only true and most easily accessible “Barbie” has been blonde, able-bodied, and white with a figure so unrealistically thin it isn't actually conducive to living. Until now that is.
In a society that is continually demanding a more expansive definition of what it means to be "beautiful" become adopted, there is less and less interest in a doll that has, for many, promoted a negative body image and distorted beauty ideals. So Mattel pivoted, in recent years doubling up efforts to diversify Barbie (and yes, they are all now actually called Barbie, not just after-thought friends of hers) in an attempt to (of course) raise product sales, but also to help more children end up with a doll they can relate to and feel good in their own skin while looking at.
Not only are we now seeing Barbies on the shelves with a multitude of body type, skin tones, eye colors, and hair colors, textures, and styles (including natural hair and no hair), Barbie can also be found utilizing wheelchairs (that actually fit inside the dreamhouse now AND come with a ramp), prosthetics, and hearing aids, as well as having different conditions, such as vitiligo and as of this year, Down Syndrome.
But wait! There’s more—they’re also making efforts to embrace various cultures and identities, in 2017 releasing the first doll with a hijab to honor American Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad and last year releasing their first trans doll in the likeness of actress and LGBTQ activist Laverne Cox.
Ken has also gotten an inclusivity makeover of his own, and y’all, we are EXCITED. We realize there is still far to go (for instance, the Curvy Barbie doll has a waistline that still measures below the national average), but we are thrilled that Mattel has made the start, and that because of this, more children will receive the reminder that they are stunning, exactly how they are.
P.S. If you haven’t already, check out their Creatable World line of dolls as well, which are designed to be gender-neutral and customizable for children to create a doll that is truly like them.