With the news that Barbie manufacturer Mattel have launched an inclusive range of gender-neutral dolls, it’s time our culture reflected the wide-ranging diversity in our world.
In 2019, the world is finally waking up to the importance of seeing a wide-range of identities reflected in our culture, whether in the workplace, on our TV screens, or in the books we curl up with before bedtime. But as society has slowly embraced some aspects of diversity in the adult world, it’s essential that future generations have the chance to see a range of races, genders, ethnicities and ability statuses through their lens, in order to create a more inclusive society later down the line.
While positive representation may be slowly increasing, the presence of rigid societal norms are pervasive, and nowhere is this more evident than in children’s toy boxes. In 2019, children are still subjected to gendered messages, sexist stereotypes and unrealistic beauty expectations, not only making it harder for them to formulate a positive self-image, but also encouraging them to show bias towards marginalised groups as they grow older.
Barbie manufacturer Mattel is looking to break that cycle though, with the introduction of a new range of “gender inclusive” dolls that allow children to “express themselves freely.”
How does that work exactly? By putting customisation at the heart of their toy kits. By offering extensive wardrobe options, accessories and a choice of two different hairstyles, children are able to style their ‘Creatable World’ dolls as they see fit, whether that’s a doll with long hair and trousers, or a doll with short hair and a dress.
The company said that it had worked with a “dedicated team of experts, parents, physicians and most importantly, kids” to create the diverse toy kits, which feature dolls in a variety of different skin tones. Interestingly, unlike Mattel’s Barbie dolls, which traditionally featured a curvaceous form, the gender-neutral dolls can be interpreted as male-presenting and female-presenting.
“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’s 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. We’re hopeful Creatable World will encourage people to think more broadly about how all kids can benefit from doll play,” she continued.
Mattel’s gender-neutral dolls may be a “one-of-a-kind play experience” for now, but with more conversation around the importance of diversity in every aspect of our lives, we can dismantle harmful stereotypes and work towards a society that truly embraces the beauty of difference.