Color Me Mattel: The Need for More Inclusion in the Barbie Doll Line
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As a black girl growing up in a state where the majority of the people were white, I had a hard time finding a positive black female role model. My household was given a rule: only black dolls were allowed in my play bins. My mother searched hard to find black Barbies who were a CEO or a doctor, but they were in scarce supply. My mother wanted me to come home and be able to play with a doll that looked like me, a doll that I could connect with and pretend to be, if only for a few hours. I am thankful for her efforts. Being able to imagine myself as a great leader drove me to remain focused in school and excel in my studies. I also realize that white Barbie is fine. The problem is that there are very few ethnic Barbies and they are really hard to find.
Barbie is held up as a positive role model that has shown girls that they can be whatever they choose. Although the Barbie brand includes multiple ethnic dolls, Barbie – the doll - is only white, therefore the message girls receive is that they can be whatever they want to be as long as they are white. If a young minority girl only sees a white effervescent blonde who is going on cool adventures, is successful, and whose slogan is, “Be who you want to be: B-A-R-B-I-E”, she is going to internalize the fact that she is not that. Therefore she may believe that she cannot be successful nor can she “be who she wants to be”. I am not asking for a plethora of ethnic dolls, I am merely asking for an expansion of Mattel’s Barbie line to include a wider range of browns in order to include more ethnicities, and for Mattel to make them more available for purchase.
While Mattel may argue that they do in fact have ethnic Barbies, they only have two main ethnic Barbies – Teresa and Nikki. There are many versions of white Barbies that stand on shelves but, only one version of the black Barbie and only one version of the Hispanic Barbie -Mattel no longer produces their Asian Barbie. I understand that Mattel wants to invest in products that sell, but the African-American community has made it clear that black Barbie needs to be more readily available in stores and on party products. Mattel ignores these voices. Mattel has produced an independent African-American doll line - So in Style - but there is a lack of marketing for it and it is rarely available in stores, which makes them insignificant.
Mattel needs to market their independent black doll lines more and feature a wider range of ethnicities in their Barbie line. Not only will Mattel attract a new consumer market, but considering that Barbie’s sales have fallen 16% (Fortune, 2015) the new market can also revitalize Mattel’s previously racially exclusive doll line. Mattel would be representing ethnicities that have been misrepresented in media and underrepresented in pop culture. Mattel is large toy conglomerate that has the power to change toy production and set toy trends. If they feature a wider range of ethnicities in their main doll line, then other toy companies will follow suit. It would be in Mattel’s best interest to be ahead of the curve, and to alter the face of dolls forever.
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