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September 26, 2019
Mattel Releasing Gender Neutral Doll for "Creatable World" Line
Be you a Millennial or a Generation Z, think back. Did you ever, ONCE, feel triggered by the labeling of the toy you wanted to play with as a "boy toy" or a "girl toy"? Ladies, if you liked to build models or play with Legos, did you ever feel "othered" because the toys of your choice were in the boy aisle? Guys, did you ever feel like Barbie and Ken didn't best represent you, or did you go running for the GI Joes? I ask all this because Mattel now has a gender-neutral doll to solve some kind of problem I haven't personally, nor know of anyone who has, experienced: needing a toy to reflect them.
Mattel’s first promotional spot for the $29.99 product features a series of kids who go by various pronouns—him, her, them, xem—and the slogan “A doll line designed to keep labels out and invite everyone in.” With this overt nod to trans and nonbinary identities, the company is betting on where it thinks the country is going, even if it means alienating a substantial portion of the population. A Pew Research survey conducted in 2017 showed that while 76% of the public supports parents’ steering girls to toys and activities traditionally associated with boys, only 64% endorse steering boys toward toys and activities associated with girls.
Here's what the dolls look like:
4/ Mattel’s first promotional spot for the $29.99 item features a series of kids who go by various pronouns — him,… https://t.co/cYvjWZ6O38— TIME (@TIME) 1569384262.0
Because there seems to be a lot of confusion over what free speech and the free market is, let me be clear: Mattel has every right to make these dolls. My criticism of them is not criticizing Mattel's right to make a doll or make a statement. My criticism is of the merit of the statement they're making.
But the Creatable World doll is something else entirely. Unlike model airplanes or volcano kits, dolls have faces like ours, upon which we can project our own self-image and anxieties.
Mattel is banking on the gender-neutral fad to make a little cash. Fair play. It's also fair play to make these dolls look like seven-year-olds, as there aren't a lot of physical differences between boys and girls at that age.
But when in the history of ever do children want to play with dolls which need to look exactly like them? Tell me how Barbie, with long legs, bodacious boobs, a tiny neck, big eyes, and perfect hair reflects the girls who are playing with them? Tell me how GI Joe, a tall, stacked, muscular soldier reflects the young boys whose voices haven't even dropped yet?
I understand different race dolls for this reason, but not feeling the gender-neutral aspect of this. Especially not feeling how projecting fears onto dolls, when a child is JUST A CHILD is in any way healthy. Playing with toys is about engaging the imagination, not some kind of session better left for a child psychiatrist's bean bag chair.
Mattel's move here is indicative of where some parents are steering their children wrong. Mattel is just trying to make money off a trend. It is the trend which is still the problem: parents projecting a damaging fad onto their children in order to feel special about themselves.