by Briana DeTuro
Children are always looking for the newest toys. A child’s imagination is constantly growing, and there are so many new toys coming out in order to fit what they are looking for.
On Wednesday, Sept. 25, Mattel released a new line of Barbie doll series called Creatable World series, a customizable, gender neutral doll.
According to an article written by Time, these series of dolls have no prominent gender features such as colored lipstick on the lips, eyes that are not too wide with long eyelashes to make it more feminine, the jawline is not too wide and there are no Barbie like breasts or broad Ken doll shoulders.
The Creatable World doll set comes with this doll, which is offered to children in numerous skin tones, a slender childlike figure and short hair. Each set will then come with a long wig, sneakers, graphic t-shirts in greens and yellows as well as tutus and camo pants. A set sells for $29.99.
This series is created with the slogan “A doll for everyone”. One of Mattel’s tweets stated “In our world, dolls are as limitless as the kids who play with them. Introducing #CreatableWorld, a doll line designed to keep labels out and invite everyone in. #AllWelcome.”
In a New York Times article titled “Mattel, Maker of Barbie, Debuts Gender-Neutral Dolls,” the writer explains that Mattel took 18 months in order to research and complete the design. Researchers worked with physicians and experts that specialized in gender identities and in addition to this, they talked to 250 families across the country, which included children of all gender identities.
Mattel’s executive and team leader for this series of dolls, Kim Culmone, stated that they came to the conclusion after this research that “the kids didn’t want to be told that boys had to play with cars and girls had to play with dolls.”
Joanna Morse, a psychologist in Brandon Florida that works with transgender clients, has been practicing for 12 years and loves to help individuals who are “seeking to be more fully themselves.” According to Morse, gender fluidity or neutrality as these dolls have been labeled as, is defined under the non-binary umbrella.
Non-binary can mean an individual that feels they are a combination of male and female or somewhere in between, not just female and not just male. Gender fluidity are individuals that may see themselves are more female sometimes and more male the other times.
“My clients did not have examples in the media or in toys or anything that accurately represented them,” said Morse. “It can be very isolating to feel like you are the only one and no one else can relate to you.”
Although Morse works with transgender adults, she can see the reason these dolls can help children of all “gender identities see a reflection of themselves that feels validating.”
With all the positive feedback from both children and families about the inclusivity of these dolls, some individuals have had other opinions.
The New York Times article quotes Culmone who states, “This product line isn’t necessarily for everyone,” said Culmone. “Some parents may be uncomfortable feeling like the toy is creating a situation where gender will need to be discussed with their child, but that’s really a personal family decision.”
On the contrary, Mackenzie Brown, a senior political science and criminology major and president of UTampa Pride said, “I think that this doll can encourage parents to talk to their children about gender identity and sexual orientation at a younger age. They can then grow up more accepting of both themselves and others.”
Brown does feel though that this series is not marketing the dolls to be specifically gender fluid/neutral dolls.
“I think that because the doll has no visible gender then sure, it’s technically gender neutral, but I think that the doll is whatever you want it to be. At the very least, it’s encouraging visibility for the LGBTQIA++ community which is great.”
She feels this visibility to the LGBTQIA++ community is important, no matter how little the step may be.
It seems that the toy industry is making these steps in order to remove gender toys and children’s items. In 2015, both Target and Disney stores stopped using boy and girl labels for toys and clothes and items in the store. Amazon also is no longer using gender-based categories for toys. With these small steps, children can start to feel they can be whoever they want to be.
Briana DeTuro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org