It is no secret that Mattel Inc.’s Barbie doll has done well, not only in the US but also globally. The franchise contributed nearly 20 percent to Mattel’s worldwide gross sales in the last quarter and was ranked as one of the top-selling US toy properties.
However, the company has also been incessantly criticised for its portrayal of unrealistic beauty standards – its white, ultra-thin, blue-eyed, lusciously-haired, ample-bosomed Barbie, it is argued, belies the realities of women who must eat, labour, provide care to children and the elderly, and survive intimate and public violence.
Mattel has often dismissed such criticisms. Only a couple of years ago, Mattel’s lead designer for Barbie said that mothers are to blame for girls’ body issues, and not dolls.
However, in recent years, the company has launched multiple new product lines, from career, petite, and curvy Barbie dolls to dolls that are non-white, to appease its critics. Earlier this month, it launched its first Barbie in hijab. Designed after Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, this doll is part of its “Sheroes” series. Mattel portrays this doll as serving as an “inspiration for countless little girls who never saw themselves represented in sports and culture”.