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Image / Editorial

Diversifying play for kids: Barbie creator Mattel, debuts gender-neutral dolls


by Jennifer McShane
26th Sep 2019
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In the digital age, the concept of dolls may not hold the sway they once did for young children, but seeing a variety, of all shapes, sizes and genders. is still vital 


When Barbie was first created, she was a model-thin blonde with a waist so tiny that her proportions couldn’t exist in real life. She wasn’t a role model; she was one-dimensional, representing a female stereotype who loved nothing more than shopping. But faced with changes in beauty ideals, shifting demographics and ongoing criticism of Barbie’s impossible proportions, Mattel decided to remake the iconic blonde, and they have been trying hard in recent years.

Barbie’s body type has been re-created to reflect the image of real-life girls. You can now buy her in four body types: the original, plus tall, curvy, and petite. They also feature seven skin tones, 22 eye colours, 30 hair colours, 24 hairstyles, and 14 face sculpts.

Related: ‘I remember hearing the words “she’s disabled” and wondering who they were talking about’ 

Not only that, you can also buy a wheelchair-using doll, a doll with a removable prosthetic leg, and now they have introduced Creatable World dolls intended to reflect our culture “as the world continues to celebrate the positive impact of inclusivity,” said Kim Culmone, the Mattel executive who led the team that designed the new dolls.

 

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“Through research, we heard that kids don’t want their toys dictated by gender norms”

Available in different skin tones, each doll comes with two wigs of different lengths — hair types include curly, straight and braided — and several wardrobe options that allow children to style the doll with “short or long hair, or in a skirt, pants or both,” according to Culmone.

 

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“We’re hopeful Creatable World will encourage people to think more broadly about how all kids can benefit from doll play.”

The Creatable World series will cost $29.99 per doll (€28.35 + €12.53 shipping for Irish consumers) and go on sale (online only, to start) in October.

It’s a step that reaffirms the message that our children should be free to express themselves however they choose to, in whatever way they feel most comfortable – right down to the toys and dolls they play with.

Main photograph: Mattel  


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Related: My trans child: ‘Everyone’s journey is different, but seeing your child happy is every parent’s ultimate goal’

Related: The genderless baby: Parental indulgence or the future for our children?