Turns out you don’t need a long, luxurious mane — or a Dream House — to be a Barbie. Mattel, the almost 75-year-old toymaker behind the iconic doll, launched a gender-fluid incarnation Wednesday.
But before I tell you about this groundbreaking new toy, first, let me tell you a story about a late-bloomer named Hannah.
She was about 9 years old, somewhat tall for her age and sure that Natalie Imbruglia’s choppy pixie cut was going to look so chic atop her pale, gangling body.
Alas, that Linda Evangelista-inspired haircut did not make this awkward tween feel like a supermodel, and especially not a Barbie. But this young girl, with dozens of Barbies, Skippers and Kellys to her name, would have appreciated just one with an edgy haircut.
That’s why I applaudMattel’s Creatable World, a new collection of gender-neutral dolls, whichallow kids to customize their Barbie and Ken in ways they never could before. The dolls come in a variety of skin tones, with extensions so they can have short or long hair and wear contemporary clothing styles that men and women have shared for decades.
Yes, toy companies, some men have long hair and some women wear baggy jeans. And — brace yourselves — boys like dolls, too!
“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,” Kim Culmone, senior vice president of Mattel Fashion Doll Design said in a statement. “Through research,we heard that kids don’t want their toys dictated by gender norms. This line allows all kids to express themselves freely, which is why it resonates so strongly with them.”
Mattel also toned down stereotypical feminine and masculine features, such as Barbie’s barely proportionate breasts and Ken’s chiseled broad shoulders.
Mattel’s first ad for Creatable World, which launches Sept. 25, with each kit going for $29.99,features children addressed with alternative pronouns such as “them,” and the slogan “A doll line designed to keep labels out and invite everyone in,” according to Time.
During development, Mattel tested the doll with 250 families in seven states, which included 15 children who considered themselves trans, gender-fluid or avoided defining themselves altogether.
“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 Greger, head of global consumer insights at Mattel, tells the outlet. “This is the first doll that you can find under the tree and see is for them because it can be for anyone.”
Photo by Mattel