Barbie’s iconic slim, European, and feminine style has received criticism and backlash in recent years for continuing to perpetuate unrealistic body expectations for the young girls who play with them but they’ve slowly begun taking steps to right those wrongs. In their latest attempt, Mattel recently announced they’re releasing a new line of gender-neutral dolls.
The Creatable World line includes six dolls with different skin tones, two wigs, and clothes with the slogan, “A doll line designed to keep labels out and invite everyone in.” In a statement about the new gender-neutral dolls, Mattel said: “Toys are a reflection of culture and as the world continues to celebrate the positive impact of inclusivity, we felt it was time to create a doll line free of labels.”
— MATTEL (@Mattel) September 25, 2019
The customizable doll comes with a Creatable World Deluxe Character Kit so that kids can play around with the doll’s look while the body of the doll itself is gender-neutral. There are no broad shoulders, full lips, or long lashes and the wardrobe is just as versatile with hoodies, sneakers, yellow and green graphic tees, tutus and camo pants.
Mattel tested the doll with 250 families across seven states, including 15 children who identify as trans, gender-nonbinary or gender-fluid. “Through research, we heard that kids don’t want their toys dictated by gender norms,” Kim Culmone, senior vice president of Mattel fashion doll design told NPR. “This line allows all kids to express themselves freely which is why it resonates so strongly with them.”
The response to the doll has been mostly positive with many from the LGBTQ+ community applauding the move seeing it as a step toward inclusivity in the mainstream. “So many children and parents never saw themselves represented in toys and dolls, but this new line raises the bar for inclusion thanks to input from parents, physicians, and children themselves, “GLAAD tweeted.
🎵 🎵 🎵
I'm a non-binary doll
In a binary world
I am plastic
You can brush my hair
Please use the pronoun "their"
Imagination, life is your creation
— National Center for Transgender Equality (@TransEquality) September 25, 2019
This move toward inclusivity reflects how younger generations are adhering less and less to labels and gender norms.
A report by trend forecasting agency J. Walter Thompson Innovation Group found that only 44 percent of Gen Zers said they always bought clothes designed for their own gender. Another 2019 report by the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles found that 27 percent of California teens surveyed identified in varying levels to gender non-conformity.
“There were a couple of gender-creative kids who told us that they dreaded Christmas Day because they knew whatever they got under the Christmas tree, it wasn’t made for them,” Monica Dreger, head of consumer insights at Mattel told TIME. “This is the first doll that you can find under the tree and see is for them because it can be for anyone.”
Mattel also recently released a Dia de Los Muertos doll and has also debuted dolls with more realistic body types so this move seems to be an ongoing effort to usher in a new era of Barbie that’s more real than perfect.
Mattel’s Creatable World doll line retails for $30 per kit and is available now.