Photo: “midge.jpg” by RomitaGirl67 via Flickr
Caption: The doll pictured here is “Midge.” Mattel created her in 1963 as Barbie’s best friend to counteract criticism that claimed Barbie was a sex symbol. How far Mattel has come!
Last Wednesday, Mattel released a line of gender-neutral dolls called “Creatable World” to the public. It is intended to cater to all children and to educate them about inclusivity.
Considered a breakthrough for gender-fluidity, these dolls stray from Mattel’s dated “Barbie and Ken” format in a category of its own. Each kit contains one doll with two wigs with short and long hair and gender-neutral clothing. The dolls can go by him, her, them and xem.
On Mattel’s media page, there is a statement from Senior Vice President of Mattel Kim Culmone that explains the premise of their gender-neutral dolls: “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.”
Studies have shown that young people that identify as non-binary is increasing. For instance, the state of California boasts that 27% of teens identify as gender-nonconforming, according to a study conducted by the Williams Institute at the University of California in 2017.
Another study conducted by Pew in 2018 also shows that 35% of Gen Z (ages 13 to 21 in 2018) knew someone who used gender-neutral pronouns, like “they” and “them,” in comparison to 16% of Generation X born from 1965 to 1980.
Mattel’s “Creatable World” gender-neutral dolls are not only a step towards recognition and inclusivity for every child, but a step in eliminating the presence of reinforced gendered labels displayed in toys. Retail stores like Target, Kmart and The Disney Store have also made huge steps to change labels in the toy store to adopt a gender-neutral friendly shopping experience.
Also, according to the U.K. campaign Let Toys Be Toys, the use of “boy and girl filters or navigation on websites dropped by 70% between 2012 and 2016.”
When asked about the gender-neutral dolls at West Chester University, students shared their thoughts.
Nyred Jackson, a first-year political science major, says that he owns a doll of his own and that he ordered it from Amazon. “I found out about it when it first came out,” Jackson said. “They’re really cute, and the outfits are great, and they’re all different from each doll, which I think is awesome.”
According to Mattel’s website, “The Creatable World doll line consists of six different doll kits that are available in a variety of skin tones.”
Jackson describes his dolls and what it came with.
“The one I have has overalls,” Jackson said. “It also has a T-shirt and a skirt, and they all come with three pair of shoes, and I think they all come with hats, a tank top and shorts. They’re very neutral-gendered bodies.”
Melanie Griffin, a junior majoring in social work, shared her reaction to gender-neutral dolls. “I think it’s a great idea,” Griffin said. “I think the company’s being smart.”
With the release of the doll collection, there has been quite a buzz about them. People have been flocking to social media voicing their opinion about the gender-neutral dolls. Some parents criticized it because they don’t want their boys to be playing with dolls, while others praise it for being inclusive.
“I think a lot of parents are being ridiculous because the difference between action figures and dolls is that action figures are for boys and dolls are typically girls, and I do think the ‘Creatable World’ dolls are fashion dolls,” Jackson said. “That’s kind of the point is that they’re more for dress up.”
“Older people have more of a bias,” Griffin said. “I feel like kids form a bias because of parents.”
Jackson talks about how beneficial the Mattel line is for gender-neutral kids. “I think the kids that fall under that gender creative category: this is the doll for them,” Jackson said. “So I think it’s really important for them.”
The ‘Creatable World’ gender-neutral doll kits are listed for $30 and can be bought online at Walmart, Amazon and Target.
Hania Jones is a fourth-year student majoring in English and minoring in journalism. HJ902644@wcupa.edu