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Inclusion in the Toy AIsle

Inclusion in the Toy AIsle

By Alejandra Guzmán

@aleguzman

 Click aqui para español- >El pasillo de los juguetes se vuelve más inclusivo

Diversity matters for all organizations, not just out of principle but also as good business practice. Organizations have taken a long time to recognize the need for diversity in their practices, but fortunately many of them are taking firm steps to correct the lack of diversity in their products and services. More importantly, these organizations are also recognizing the impact that they have in the community at large. A great example of this change in practices is the ever-popular Barbie, Mattel popular doll. The famous doll that debuted in 1959 reflected a very specific body image in its original design. Over the years, Barbie became a global symbol of a certain kind of American beauty.

The controversy steered by Barbie’s body type and appearance has been known by many, and there have been claims that if Barbie’s measurements were made into a human-size scale, the measurements would be unnatural and completely unrealistic. As a consequence of this unrealistic image, little girls have been provided with harmful expectations of a body image and definitions of beauty, especially when the original dolls depicted only white, blue-eyed and blonde women.

Time Magazine reported studies that suggested that Barbie had influenced the girls’ view of an ideal body. A compelling study published in the journal of Developmental Psychology in 2006, found that girls exposed to Barbie at a young age expressed greater concern with being thin, when compared with girls exposed to other dolls.

Lena Dunham, writer and producer of HBO’s show “Girls,” and Winnie Harlow from “America’s Next Top Model” are two great examples of modern-day advocates for women empowerment and body acceptance. Dunham has been outspoken about body confidence issues and has been an advocate for “loving the skin you’re in.” She is constantly reflective in her social media posts where she often shares personal experiences with body shaming to remind people of the importance of accepting your body. Harlow, a model who has vitiligo, a skin condition that causes skin to lose its pigment, has used her fame to be an outspoken activist for body positivity and acceptance.

Mothers of this generation have been driving changes in the way products are developed. They are favoring empowering toys for their sons and daughters. The way they shop directly affects the profits of toy-making companies. Companies like Mattel have taken firm steps to introduce toys that are more representative of the real world, including changing the ever-popular Barbie dolls.

In 2016, Mattel introduced Barbie with three body types, and they are now taking a further step towards diversity by introducing their Fashionistas line. This line features 176 dolls, both male and female, with nine different body lines, 35 skin tones, and 94 hairstyles. This is a statement that beauty comes in many colors and shapes and reflects a more diverse society.

Mattel is not the only company creating dolls that have diverse appearances and abilities. American Girl´s 2020 Girl of the Year is hearing impaired. The line also includes doll accessories like, a wheelchair and a diabetes care kit. Another brand, Creative Minds, has a collection called “Friends with Diverse Abilities.”

These are steps in the right direction for diversity and inclusion. Not only is it the ethically right thing to do, but these changes also represent good business practices in an increasingly diverse society.

*Photo Courtesy of Mattel

Alejandra Guzman

Writer/Escritora 

Economic Development/Desarrollo Economico

@aleguzman

Mexico

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