Black Barbie: A good idea?

Meet Grace, Kara and Trichelle. They are the new black Barbies released by Mattell in their latest So In Style or S.I.S line. Why? To fill a gap in the market for young black girls who for so long have been playing with dolls that don’t look like them.

They have fuller lips, curlier hair and other features that the company says more accurately represent African-American women.
Some have cheered the new dolls saying it’s about time. Others criticized them for not being black enough.

On this blog Seatle Smith is quoted saying:
“Where is MY doll? Where is the doll with the Afro? Where is the doll with twists? Where’s the doll with the lowboy? Where’s the doll with the dark brown eyes, and the flatter nose, and the voluptuous lips? Where’s the doll that has all of those things, not just some? Where’s the doll for little girls that look like me?”

The dolls were created by Stacy McBride-Irby, an African-American who watched her daughter play with dolls and wanted to create a doll that looked more like her. Ms. McBride-Irby says:
“My daughter loves the dolls. I’ve had dads thank me for creating this line of dolls that represent their little girls. These dolls are for girls all over the world.”

Now, meet Fulla or shall I call her Muslim Barbie? She’s the best selling doll in the Middles East. I Barbie like doll that is covered and wears a headscarf. I remember when I used to live in Doha, I wanted to buy a present for a family friend’s daughter. I was instructed to buy Fulla and not Barbie (because Fulla was better!)

Is this fair enough? Should the toys (in this case the dolls) that we buy our children reflect what they ,and what the people around them, look like? Or is that too much emphasis on racial and cultural difference from a very early age? Would you buy your child a doll if it looked more like them? Does a black Barbie make the doll more accessible or should we accept that Barbie whatever the colour just isn’t really real at all?

In tonic , Jac Chebatoris says:
“Let’s face it: there’s nobody — black, white or in between, that could really ever identify with Barbie, and that, we think, is a good thing. After all, she’s plastic.”

41 Responses to “Black Barbie: A good idea?”

  1. October 23, 2009 at 10:40

    This from quophie on Twitter:
    “Its all nonsense, let’s move on as people. black barbie or not……they are all dolls”

  2. 2 James Ian
    October 23, 2009 at 10:52

    Well, I guess if it’s going to be all black then it should have a more African name, right??? Oh! Well then that wouldn’t be Barbie would it? Well, if that’s the case doesn’t Mattell make other Dolls that are back and have African names?? So what’s the big deal then? Why does it matter if Barbie is black, it’s not like Barbie is the only doll in the world. Heck When I walk through the toy isle in Walmart I see all kinds of diffrent race dolls. Sounds to me like someone just wants to push the race issue and be a victim.

    “To fill a gap in the market for young black girls who for so long have been playing with dolls that don’t look like them.”


    • 3 Jessica in NYC
      October 23, 2009 at 13:35

      A more African name? What name would you suggest, James? Ever consider that a black doll may not be African?

      • 4 James Ian
        October 24, 2009 at 08:19

        @ Jessica

        I’m just going off of paragraph two of the opening question that said

        “They have fuller lips, curlier hair and other features that the company says more accurately represent African-American women.”
        Some have cheered the new dolls saying it’s about time. Others criticized them for not being black enough.

        That’s what the question was directed at, so that what I commented on.

        Try again

  3. 5 Paul (RoAtEr101)
    October 23, 2009 at 11:16

    I think that this is ridiculous,
    “Black Barbie” is teaching kids to stereotype from a VERY early age.
    I have never seen barbie as “White”, ive only ever seen her as a role model for young ladies (Of any racial background).

    • 6 Jessica in NYC
      October 23, 2009 at 13:49

      Paul, reading your comment reminded me of a speech I heard as a kid that during a school social studies lesson. The gist of it is: A white doesn’t see color, because society is set up to make you comfortable and the only time you are reminded that you are of your race is when you are in a room full of black people.

  4. 7 steve
    October 23, 2009 at 12:48

    Gee, none of my transformers never looked like me. Heck, most of my toys weren’t even human. Why does everything have to be about me? We are living in a VERY narcissistic world.

    • 8 Jessica in NYC
      October 23, 2009 at 14:26

      Steve, not all toys are meant to be human, but ALL toys and cartoons that were not human had human characteristics. Transformers had aspects of a male human form and that “stereo-typed” a man as being strong and buff physically.

      What about He-man, GI Joes, Popeye, Batman, Spiderman, Superman… were they suppose to reflect anyone other than a white skinned person? It is a narcissistic world and it seems no one cries foul louder than the people that are threaten by change that is inclusive of others different from themselves.

  5. 9 scmehta
    October 23, 2009 at 13:27

    Don’t ever let your child be black/white-centric. You can present the child with assorted toys and dolls (including the Barbie in different shades/colour of the skin and dresses), then allow the child to play with a free-will. This will automatically adjust the child to identify with self and mix/adjust with the others.

  6. 10 Jessica in NYC
    October 23, 2009 at 13:32

    It’s important to have role models, public figures, heroin and hero that reflect all it’s people, so why not toys, too? Society progresses when all children have healthy environmental and yes, this includes toys and barbies. I young girl should be able to see beauty in different colors and sizes.

  7. 11 Ann
    October 23, 2009 at 13:40

    Having read Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye – yes I would say a Black Barbie is indeed a good idea – I’d like it to be more black though. And while we’re about it – let’s have a Chinese Barbie, an Indian Barbie, a Barbie that doesn’t look anorexic etc….

  8. October 23, 2009 at 13:47

    Traditional Barbie only looks like the “ideal” of Caucasian beauty, and doesn’t actually resemble the vast majority of Caucasian women, but if there is to be a “black” Barbie, then there should be a host of different skin tones and facial/body features common to many black individuals. A true representation of actual people is not the same thing as stereotyping. There are black Africans, Dominicans, “African-Americans”, etc., and many more, but if a company is trying to build a product more children can relate to, where’s the harm? Did I miss something, or is there still a major ongoing worldwide conflict with terrorism and other such real things to worry over?

  9. 14 Jessica in NYC
    October 23, 2009 at 13:50

    ALL dolls have unrealistic features made to highlight perfection and not the reality of a human body. It’s ridiculous that people are threaten by a doll reflecting some diversity in skin color. I gasp at the idea that any intelligent person who stereotype black women based on a doll, but not white women based on the white Barbies— many white women women very curvy figures with hips and butts, curly hair, freckled skin and short not flat butted, stick figures with long blond hair and blue eyes as the white barbies.

  10. 15 nora
    October 23, 2009 at 14:15

    Peaches and Cream Barbie came in several skin shades in the Los Angeles market during the 1980’s. Am I missing something here?

  11. 16 VictorK
    October 23, 2009 at 14:16

    What’s the problem? This Barbie even reflects the Black preference for light skin. Instead of whining because there isn’t a Black Barbie and then whining when there is one, wouldn’t the answer be for some Black entrepreneur to produce, make money from, and create jobs with a Black doll, instead of relying on White-run corporations to promote ‘Black pride’?

  12. 17 Lew in Cincinnati
    October 23, 2009 at 14:36

    Why is this even a question?

  13. 18 Dave in Florida
    October 23, 2009 at 14:46

    This is interesting as lately I have noticed, and mentioned to friends, that so many middle-aged white women are beginning to look the same. They are dressing alike in designer clothing and accessories, wearing their hair longer and with highlights (and a disproportionate number of blondes), French-tip manicures, and a lot of makeup (especially accentuating the eyes with eyeliner). I would say that young girls are not the ones with a “Barbie” fetish. It seems to be the 40+ crowd.

    By the way, as a 40+ myself, when I was a kid playing with GI Joes in the 1960’s, there was a black GI Joe and he was very popular with white kids. Also, a line of toys portraying a group of astronauts, with Major Matt Mason as the commander, had a black member of the group as well.

    • 19 Ann
      October 23, 2009 at 15:18

      Do you know Dave, I think you’re right about that! I’m in the 40 something bracket myself and I am an aging hippie type. But the filthy looks I get from some other women my age astounds me! And they all look the same – older versions of the fashionable young women. I’ve seen this in Britian, Spain and Belgium – it’s almost as if they are saying….

      “How dare you have long, greying hair, wear long flowing unfashionable skirts, flat comfortable shoes and not spend a fortune on your hair, your body, handbags etc!!!”

      Maybe I am amiss in my attitude to the cult of personal external beauty – but I can’t help but notice that these very same women look far from happy. For me, life is too short to spend half your day looking in the mirror – I’d rather be reading a book or going out for a walk 🙂

      • 20 Linda from Italy
        October 23, 2009 at 21:41

        Sorry Ann, I added an “a” to your name, too long in Italy I guess, plus my best friend is called Anna. Love your posts – the voice of reason and humanity.

  14. 21 jens
    October 23, 2009 at 15:09

    I want a hispanic “barbie and Ken” with a cool low rider so they can go cruising….

  15. 22 T
    October 23, 2009 at 15:19

    Racist idiots like Nick Griffin aside, diversity is part of life. So why not have these.

  16. 23 Linda from Italy
    October 23, 2009 at 15:45

    I am proud to say that as kid I never owned a doll. My favourite toys were my train set and building set (pre-dated Lego). I too am like Anna an ageing hippy, 50-something. Spend a fortune on dyeing my hair all colours of the rainbow, red, pink, purple streaks (a bit of punk in there too), but buy my clothes at the street market, and gave up on high heels 20 years ago – funny how many of my Italian friends, of both sexes, murmur “che bella”, but never have the guts to do their own thing – talk about clones!
    Thank somebody up, or down, there that I escaped this sexist (and now ageist) sterotyping, ot maybe I just take after my tatty old teddy bear.

  17. 24 Anthony
    October 23, 2009 at 16:13

    What the heck??? Those Black Barbies have straight hair!? How many Blacks do you know with straight hair. That’s not “keeping it real”.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  18. 25 Tom K in Mpls
    October 23, 2009 at 16:31

    The color or ethnicity of anyone or anything is no issue. The fact that it can attract so much attention is proof that some people have a problem. Get over it.

    October 23, 2009 at 16:41

    I would like a real barbie for me and not the barbie of the shelf. Real human and alive. Skin color is not the real issue with me. I would like a barbie with a glowing heart; one that I can easily identify even when I am in the ‘dark’. Finally, one that I can visualize when I am miles away from home. THATS THE BARBIE FOR ME coz I am not too old for toys. Eeek!

  20. 27 Jennifer
    October 23, 2009 at 17:01

    I want to know where the native american barbie is! And, I think someone else suggested that we also need dolls for older women with gray hair, older men (with no hair), and let’s make tall barbies and short ones. Let’s change their body type and make some skinny and some not (so that we can have diversity).

    This is absolutely ludacris.

    Dolls are dolls! If you are picking out dolls for your children focusing on race then you are instilling racism in your children and telling them to see color first.

    October 23, 2009 at 18:04

    A doll from a shop is essentially an inactive object. It comes finished in all aspects unlike the dolls of my toddling days. We (kids) made dolls through coraborative thinking and fashioned them according to the stereotypes of our times; especially our parents. We discussed the making of the make up of the doll and assigned various meanings to the appearance. As in the story of creation, our main doll material was mud during the rain season even though someone came with a successful idea of using urine to make mud during the dry season in order to maintain a constant supply of dolls.
    None of us brought those dolls home though we learned many things. We worried that our parents might misunderstand us even thoug they featured a lot in these projects. No! One desires sometimes to fashion his or her doll and not the other way round.

  22. October 23, 2009 at 18:30

    Hardly earth shattering,but give me one anyway,a rich one preferably.

  23. 31 patti in cape coral
    October 23, 2009 at 18:36

    I can’t seem to work up any enthusiasm for this subject, but in general, as far as dolls go, I think the more variety the better.

  24. 32 Luz Ma from Mexico
    October 23, 2009 at 19:13

    When I was a child the majority of barbies were blue/green eyed blondes. At the first opportunity I had, I bought the one that had the black hair, because I wanted to have one that was closer to my looks (however I didn´t have the blue eyes of this doll).

    I think black barbie is a good idea , and I hope that soon there are other races included to the list.

    My problem with barbie is her body type. But the chances are that the company first makes an “alien barbie” than changing her body type.

  25. 33 Ronald Almeida
    October 23, 2009 at 20:26

    Mattell thinks its a good idea. The BBC and all of us commenting on the subject furnish them with free market research.

  26. October 24, 2009 at 12:40

    This question assumes that the original barbie was acceptable as a ridiculous stereotype of femininity. Why and how commercial products appear in the first place is much more interesting than the products themselves regardless of who they are aimed at. You could ask the same question about cars, light bulbs etc.

  27. 35 charmane from Jamaica
    October 25, 2009 at 02:35

    I think a black barbie is a great idea. If this company really wants to make money, why not appease everyone and make a barbie for all races?

  28. 36 Jim Newman
    October 25, 2009 at 17:29

    Hello again
    Yet another cretinous subject!!!

  29. 37 Ronald Almeida
    October 25, 2009 at 22:03

    I don’t know if this has something to say about race relations in Switzerland but when I lived there I very often saw little white girls playing with black dolls. Of course they were not Barbies.

    • 38 Jennifer
      October 27, 2009 at 16:05

      What concerns me is that it seems that there is a demand and desire to be “correct”; in that some want children to have dolls that look just like them. Children are not dolls; they play with them. If you are instilling a sense of seeing race/color in your children’s toys, you are actually projecting your focus on race onto them.

      Kind of eye-raising; like people that throw a fit about little boys playing with dolls.

  30. 39 Dennis Junior
    October 26, 2009 at 12:40

    Maybe, it’s a good idea….

    =Dennis Junior=

  31. 40 William
    October 27, 2009 at 03:00

    What a good idea – and guess what it comes with an ironing board, hoover and sink so that she can be taught how to do things correctly.
    It also comes with a maid’s uniform

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