Mattel has offered black, Latina and Asian Barbie dolls for a long time—I even remember collecting the ones from their 1998 international series, including a Thai Barbie and a Native American Barbie. I kind of thought Mattel had it relatively together where diversity was concerned. Which is why I was very surprised to read this petition on Change.org.
Karen Green Braithwaite of New York, NY is petitioning Mattel to offer party supplies featuring Barbies of color. Apparently, if a little girl wants to throw a Barbie-themed birthday party, she’d better be cool with her banners, tablecloths, plates, cups and napkins featuring blonde-haired, blue-eyed Barbie. Because that’s all they have.
Seriously? When nearly 30 percent of the U.S. is something other than white, not to mention that there are probably kids in other non-white countries that may want a Barbie-themed party too, why isn’t a black or brown or even a redhead anywhere to be seen on these decorations? Why couldn’t they at least have a Barbie banner featuring a few different Barbies together?
There are other options, of course—a girl could go with a vintage Barbie theme. There are some decorations available featuring old school Barbie’s silhouette in shadow, which, obviously, doesn’t show if she’s white or black. Or if you’re the super creative type, you could make your own Barbie decorations.
But not everybody has the time or money for that, and frankly, people shouldn’t have to go this far out of their way to provide a fun atmosphere for a birthday. When you’re a kid, a birthday party is the one day you get to be totally selfish and everyone should treat you like a queen. If it were me, I would have been devastated if the Barbie on all of my decorations looked nothing like me. And of course, there’s the greater cultural implications of providing only white Barbie decorations—it just furthers the notion that blonde and blue-eyed is the beauty standard that everyone should try to live up to.
It just seems like Mattel is missing out on an important demographic, and an opportunity to show that they support all ethnicities of little girls projecting their personalities into their dolls. To me, the choice is obvious: They’ve diversified their dolls, so why the lag on everything else? Good for Ms. Braithwaite for bringing this issue to light.