A walk down the dolls’ aisle

A walk down the dolls’ aisle

Sreya Kumar

For as long as I can remember, Barbie dolls have always been a prominent part in my life. I recall having a Barbie cake for my sixth birthday and receiving eight “different” Barbie dolls as gifts. Yet, I never really liked Barbie dolls. I didn’t like how they had really slim waists and the classic blonde hair with blue eyes. I didn’t like how they didn’t looked like any of the women in my life.

However, in celebration of the 2018 International Women’s Day, Barbie released a signature collection of inspiring dolls — with faces like Olympic gold medalists Chloe Kim and Gabby Douglas and artist Frida Kahlo.

Looking back, I think six year-old me would have been overjoyed at the news of Barbie’s latest campaign. Their collection features inspiring women who have been significantly prominent in history, with its main slogan being: “You can be anything.”

Growing up in Singapore where dark skinned women were considered a minority, there were very few role models who looked like me. In fact, a lot of girls my age recall playing with Barbie dolls simply because they looked pretty or wore nice clothes. It’s sad to say that my generation grew up with the term “blonde and blue” to associate beauty with.

Nonetheless, in recent years, the doll company has significantly improved its efforts to cater to a wider variety of its young audience — including more dolls of color, with different ethnicities, drag queen barbies and even chemo barbies for young girls battling with cancer.

The most significant change, however, was probably the introduction of dolls with different body shapes in 2016. Appropriately titled “Fashionistas”, this set of dolls comes with a variety of skin tones, eye shapes, hair length and, even, height, breaking free of the stereotype that has been attached to Barbie’s name.

For years, Barbie has been in the public’s eye for sticking to just one body type and one skin color. However, as time has gone by, the company has truly made an effort to step up its game and make new dolls, keeping in mind Barbie’s wide outreach.

By creating different types of dolls, more girls can see themselves in these dolls, and feel comfortable in their own skin, without feeling like they have to become skinnier or taller. To me, it’s important that children gain self confidence in their appearance from a young age, and I feel like Barbie is trying to implement that by creating more dolls.

The fact that girls can now find dolls that look like them on shelves is pretty amazing to me. The fact that Barbie truly embraces that and makes it a point to be more inclusive is definitely a step in the right direction. A huge part of a child’s life revolves around toys and fun. Now when little girls walk into the dolls aisle, and pick up a Barbie doll from the shelves, they can truly see a reflection of themselves.