Barbie Toymaker Mattel Launches Line of Gender‑Neutral Dolls
Mattel, the toymaker behind hyperfeminine and hypermasculine toys such as Barbie and GI Joe dolls, is launching Creatable World, a line of gender-neutral dolls, the company announced in a statement Wednesday.
“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.”
The move follows the 74-year-old toymaker’s recent attempts to rebrand its Barbie line by including Barbies with careers in traditionally male-dominated STEM fields, such as astrophysicist Barbie, engineer Barbie, and scientist Barbie.
But Mattel isn’t the only toy company attempting to reinvent itself to Gen Z values; French toymakers and the government recently committed to an industry charter that seeks “a balanced representation (of genders) in toys” in an effort to close the gender gap in STEM subjects, reported The Guardian on Tuesday.
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“There are toys for girls that are generally very pink and generally very focused on domestic life, whereas toys for boys are generally themed around construction, space travel and science and technology,” Agnès Pannier-Runacher, France’s junior economy minister, told the broadcaster RTL.
Creatable World, the gender-neutral doll line, takes a commitment to a balanced representation of gender one step further. With no exaggerated gendered physical characteristics, such as large breasts or wide shoulders, the dolls more closely resemble the children who will play with them than their predecessors. The dolls come with long and short hair options, and a range of clothing that includes pants, skirts, dresses and shirts, which provide per doll “100+ looks all in one kit,” according to the line’s website. The dolls are, according to the company, for children of any gender identification.
The new dolls have garnered praise from some within the queer community. “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,” the LGBT advocacy group Glaad wrote on Twitter.
Of course, representation is critical, but the launch of Creatable World does raise the question: Why create a new, separate line of gender-neutral dolls, rather than fold them into existing lines long criticized for their overly gendered stereotypes? Offhand, the inclusion of gender-neutral dolls within existing lines would seem a more powerful statement — at once tempering the gendered stereotypes of Barbie and GI Joe, and making it clear that people of all gender identifications have always been found, and will always be found, within our existing social structures. One can only hope sales of gender-neutral dolls take off, leaving Barbie and GI Joe sales in the dust. At the end of the day, consumers, not toymakers, make the loudest statement