My African American daughter asked me for a Barbie party theme featuring a black Barbie for her birthday this year. I thought surely, with all of the dolls of color Barbie sells, that it would be no problem to find the party supplies with Barbies of color.
Little did I know that not only would I find nothing featuring Barbies of color, but that the only line of party supplies Mattel offers features various huge, blown up images of a blonde haired blue-eyed Barbie on literally everything except for some very small images of a brown-skinned Barbie and a brunette (possibly meant to be Hispanic) Barbie on a tablecloth, and a set of a handful of hanging decorations.
Even though it seems like a small thing, featuring the white Barbie so prominently on the banners, cups, napkins, plates, party favors, and invitations, while relegating the "ethnic" Barbies to near-invisible cameos sends a clear--and troubling--message to young girls.
As parents of children of color, we're basically faced with the choice of either foregoing a Barbie theme altogether, or compensating for Mattel's lack of sensitivity through labor-intensive DIY solutions. Check out this blog of a mother who went so far as to print out labels of Black Barbies at home and stick them to party supplies: http://ebonylove10.blogspot.com/2011/12/how-to-have-black-barbie-party.html
Innovative? Creative? Yes! But should it be necessary in 2013? Surely Mattel can do better!
Young girls of color need positive images of themselves reflected back to them in popular culture, the media, and their daily lives. Mattel already offers a wide selection of dolls of different races and ethnicities--which simply begs the question: Why not give young girls of color the option of seeing and celebrating that same diversity when it comes to celebrating themselves?