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From Sexist Clichés To Inclusivity: How Barbie Dolls Have Evolved Over The Years

Barbie is releasing a new collection of dolls in June, which will include the very first Barbie with a hearing aid, prosthetic leg and a Ken doll with a skin condition called vitiligo. The latest collection of Barbie dolls will be the “most diverse and inclusive” in the line of dolls.  Lisa McKnight, Mattel’s Global… Continue reading From Sexist Clichés To Inclusivity: How Barbie Dolls Have Evolved Over The Years

Barbie is releasing a new collection of dolls in June, which will include the very first Barbie with a hearing aid, prosthetic leg and a Ken doll with a skin condition called vitiligo. The latest collection of Barbie dolls will be the “most diverse and inclusive” in the line of dolls. 

Lisa McKnight, Mattel’s Global Head of Barbie dolls said this new collection would help children understand and celebrate the importance of inclusion. 

The 2022 Fashionistas Line will also include a Barbie in a wheelchair, and male dolls that are thinner and less muscular. The dolls will have a variety of skin tones, eye colours, hair colours and disabilities. 

How Barbie has evolved over the years

The Barbie doll, which was invented on March 9, 1959, went on display at the American Toy Fair in New York City. Toy buyers were initially sceptical about buying the doll, since it was unlike other popular toddler dolls. Eleven inches tall, Barbie dolls took the toy world by storm, and it became a favourite among young girls, who aspired to become like a Barbie in future. For six decades now, Barbie dolls have been the favourites of young girls. 

Toys influence a major part of a child’s life in early years. The Barbie dolls were like fashion models for young girls who desired to imagine their future selves in a similar fashion. However, these dolls came with a perfect body, fashionable outfits and a perfect first love, Ken. Even though these toys were colour inclusive, they were promoting a particular type of body image. In 2006, a group of UK researchers found that children between five-and-a-half and seven-and-a-half years of age who were exposed to Barbie dolls, suffered lower body esteem and were dissatisfied with their body image. 

However, over the last few years, the American doll company has realised the importance of inclusivity in the toys. The brand is working towards combating sexist clichés and the ‘ideal’ vision of beauty.

In 2017, Barbie introduced a doll wearing a hijab, modelled after Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first American fencer who won an Olympic medal wearing the hijab. During the pandemic, Barbie launched some dolls honouring healthcare workers and frontline workers. In the latest collection, Ken with vitiligo and the Barbie with a hearing impairment, the company hopes children would be able to see themselves reflected in these dolls.