Mat­tel de­fy­ing gen­der norms with new dolls

The Morning Call - - BUSINESS CYCLE - By Kim Bell­ware

The toy aisle is catch­ing up to the idea that not all kids want to play within the pink and blue bound­aries of gen­der-spe­cific play­things.

On Wed­nes­day, Mat­tel launched its first line of what it calls “gen­der in­clu­sive dolls,” in which the fig­ures in both form and fash­ion are not coded as stereo­typ­i­cally male or fe­male. The dolls come with a kit that in­cludes wigs with long and short hair­styles and cloth­ing op­tions like skirts, jeans, leg­gings and denim jack­ets.

The dolls in Mat­tel’s new “Creat­able World” line also come in dif­fer­ent skin tones.

“Toys are a re­flec­tion of cul­ture and as the world con­tin­ues to cel­e­brate the pos­i­tive im­pact of in­clu­siv­ity, we felt it was time to cre­ate a doll line free of la­bels,” Kim Cul­mone, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of Mat­tel fash­ion doll de­sign said in a state­ment Wed­nes­day. “Through re­search, we heard that kids don’t want their toys dic­tated by gen­der norms. This line al­lows all kids to ex­press them­selves freely, which is why it res­onates so strongly with them.”

The dolls are a de­par­ture from some of Mat­tel’s best­known cre­ations, such as Bar­bie, which in the past few decades has been crit­i­cized for ide­al­iz­ing a nar­row view of fem­i­nin­ity and pro­mot­ing un­re­al­is­tic beauty stan­dards. Even with tweaks, like a more typ­i­cal body shape and the pro­mo­tion of STEM-re­lated ca­reers, some of the most pop­u­lar toys mar­keted to grade-school-age chil­dren were ei­ther adults or ba­bies.

The Creat­able World dolls, mean­while, more closely re­sem­ble their pread­o­les­cent tar­get mar­ket: no makeup, fa­cial hair, bo­soms or broad shoulders.

In 2015, Tar­get said it would end la­bel­ing toys and bed­ding as specif­i­cally “girl” or “boy.” Two years later, Ama­zon re­moved “boys” and “girls” from its toy search cat­e­gories.


Creat­able World dolls are “gen­der in­clu­sive,” where form and fash­ion are not stereo­typ­i­cally male or fe­male.

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