Black Barbie doll range launched
Mattel has launched a new line of black Barbie dolls, trying to dispel previous criticism by giving the models fuller lips, a wider nose and more pronounced cheek bones.
Published: 1:49PM BST 09 Oct 2009
The "So In Style" line features Grace, Kara and Trichelle, each with her own style and interests and a little sister she mentors: Courtney, Janessa and Kianna.
The dolls reflect varying skin tones and Trichelle and Kianna have curlier hair.
The designs are a far cry from Christie, Barbie's black friend who appeared in the 1960s and was essentially a white doll painted brown
Barbie designer Stacey McBride-Irby, who is black and has a 6-year-old daughter, said she wanted to create a line of dolls for young black girls that looked like them and were inspirational and career-minded.
"I want them to see themselves within these dolls, and let them know that black is beautiful," she said.
Barbie's previous attempts to produce black models were criticised for failing to reflect different physiognomies and reinforcing attitudes that long, straight hair is often considered more beautiful than short kinky hair.
Miss McBride-Irby said she originally designed all the dolls with long hair. Combing her Barbie's long hair when she was a girl was the "highlight of my play experience," she said. She was advised to create some dolls with curlier hair, so she did.
There is a So In Style hairstyling set so girls can curl, straighten and style their dolls' hair over and over. (It costs $24.99, more than a pair of dolls at $19.99.)
That is troubling to Sheri Parks, an associate professor of American Studies at the University of Maryland in College Park, because it actively involves girls in the process of straightening hair. She worries that it reinforces the message that there is something wrong with natural hair.
"Black mothers who want their girls to love their natural hair have an uphill battle and these dolls could make it harder," Ms Parks said in an e-mail.
Barbie, which celebrated her 50th birthday in March, has for years come under fire for promoting an unrealistic body image, with her long legs, tiny waist and large breasts.
While white girls also deal with body-image issues, Kumea Shorter-Gooden, co-author of "Shifting: The Double Lives of Black Women in America," believes the problem is even more of an issue for black children.
Mattel doesn't release sales figures. But Michelle Chidoni of Mattel said the new range of dolls, launched last month, are resonating with girls of all colors and ages.
Remember PPQ's Spring Summer 2010 show? All black models chosen for their shade of skin. Is it just me, or would it be racist if it were white women instead? Why is it only racist if it's against the minority? I'm not saying that it's a bad thing PPQ did, I'm just saying it's a shame that we live in a culture with double standards.
Anyway, Barbie Dolls. Interesting that they've given them a different shape, with wider hips and lots of jewellery. They're stereotyping what black women look like, but I've never seen a stereotypical Barbie, only some women who dress like Barbie.
Will the colour of the new Barbie Doll's skin determine where in America the dolls will be sold?