Mattel recently released a new line of black Barbie dolls. Not surprisingly, the reactions have been somewhat mixed. On the positive side, some people approve of the fact that Mattel is doing more to provide a greater ethnic diversity in the Barbie lineup. On the negative side, some people have been critical that the dolls fail to be “black enough.” Interestingly, this is a criticism that was once made against Obama.
While I do understand the concern that Barbies should reflect ethnic diversity, it is somewhat interesting to hear people complain that a specific ethnic Barbie of type X does not look properly X or X enough (for example, that a black Barbie does not look black enough). After all, these are Barbie dolls-plastic dolls whose measurements and plastic perfection cannot be matched by real woman and girls. Obviously, the Barbie doll has been subject to numerous feminist criticisms over the years and these still seem to generally apply. After all, are there overweight Barbies? Short, stocky Barbies? Weight lifter Barbies? I suspect not.
This is not to say that the fact that Barbie exemplifies a stereotype of female appearance excuses Mattel from not creating ethnically diverse Barbies. Rather, it is just an observation that it struck me as interesting that people would be concerned that black Barbies don’t look black enough when Barbies generally look more like sculpted androids (or fembots) than human beings.