Barbie's commitment to diversity and inclusion has come a long way since 1959

Originally published at: Barbie's commitment to diversity and inclusion has come a long way since 1959 | Boing Boing


As a child of the 1970’s, our family didn’t have Barbie in the house, instead my parents got my sister the Happy Family, and Barbie was considered inferior by my sister and our friends due to the stiff knee joints and arms that weren’t as posable. As for me, I had my Six Million Dollar Man (and a villain named Maskatron) to play with, and they were sized just right that we could play together in all sorts of adventures and stories. The inclusiveness was in mixing toys from different lines.

This attitude towards Barbie always stuck with me, even as my own daughter played with Barbie at the turn of the Millennium. She had Barbie more or less by default, since all of the similar dolls had by then disappeared from the market, but I had a feeling she didn’t see Barbie as a role model.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that what I’m missing in talking about diversity and Barbie is that for most of my life, Barbie was never diverse or inclusive, except in the Borg sense of assimilation. When I think of Barbie, I think back to how Barbie’s clothes were almost compatible with Happy Family dolls. And now I’m too old to see Barbie as anything else as a symbol of homogenization, commercial consumption and monopolization.



You’re not the target demographic, to whom the diversity actually matters quite a lot:

To little girls, having dolls that actually look like them is important…

Regardless to your own personal opinion.

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Yes! Thank you! I am more than willing to express my ignorance so that others can correct me with actual information.

And yes, I think Mattel is going the right way. Much better than their former competitors, who are too stuck in copying Barbie to have let Mattel eventually move in. I just lament my own mental blocks, keeping me from seeing the good. And the Happy Family? Well, they were from Mattel too. I guess the line just wasn’t successful enough.

I cannot see what is important, and I know that. After all, I was never the target. But even if I cannot see, I will still stumble forward in the hopes that those who can see will still guide me.


The following paragraphs perfectly describe what Barbie has meant to me.

Queer people who, either as adults or children, identify with this feminine power that Barbie embodies are often drawn to it. Some of us as children were able to openly embrace Barbie, while others were denied the doll by adults or peers because it was deemed “girly.” It felt like you were born to play with Barbie, or you weren’t. To the latter, Barbie represented a denied world of femme aesthetics that carried on into adulthood.

Barbie allows us to dream of an illusory femininity. For many, Barbie opened a world of possibility where the femme could be cultivated.


Since the 1980s, Mattel has worked to make its Barbie collection more diverse and inclusive.

Ah. That’s why conservatives hate Barbie now. Got it.



They’ve definitely made some strides in the right direction but even their new “curvy” body type isn’t really representative of the average woman according to this analysis by the BBC:

Then again, dolls scaled up to human sizes have all kinds of other issues with proportions (like freakishly large eyes) so you can’t take it too seriously.


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