Sunday, June 23, 2024

Barbie’s Racial Justice Dolls Continue Mattel’s Path Toward Representation | VIDEO

Ida B. Wells Barbie
Ida B. Wells Barbie

*Mattel’s Barbie brand continues its decades-long journey toward proper cultural representation with the recent addition of racial justice-centered dolls to its collection.

After the first Barbie was launched in 1959, the company would not produce a Black Barbie until 1980, although it was simply a white Barbie with a darker tint. Facial features, hair texture or body types were not tailored to reflect cultural accuracy. For the next 35 years, Mattel would celebrate female advancement with mostly white Barbies who ran for president and became CEOs.

Finally, in 2015, Black Barbies were made as part of the Sheroes line of role models, including Ava DuVernay and Gabby Douglas.

Now, in 2023, Mattel’s Barbies include dolls paying homage to Black iconic figures like famous suffragist and former slave Ida B. Wells, entrepreneur Madame C.J. Walker, aviator Bessie Coleman and writer Maya Angelou.

There are also Black celebrity dolls of tennis star Naomi Osaka, rapper Nicki Minaj, and actress Laverne Cox, the first transgender person to have a Barbie designed after them. Additionally, there’s a Black Barbie Fashionista doll with vitiligo and a Black doll in a wheelchair.

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The blog Madame Noire notes that the lack of representation concerning Black dolls has contributed to the overall bias against Black people, including in the minds of children. The “Doll Test” in 1940 exposed just how deeply the bias is engrained in the country, with both white and Black children preferring white dolls over Black dolls.

Madame Noire writes: “Playing with dolls is vital to children’s development. Imaginative play helps children develop empathy as they start to think about the feelings and experiences of others. Dolls also allow children to explore their identities and play out scenarios they’d like to see in their lives. However, Black Barbie dolls’ lack – and inadequacy – throughout the years has made these cognitive and developmental benefits less accessible to Black children.”

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