This is only my opinion, and not the representation of Saintel Daily, LLC.
I was super excited when I heard that Mattel was going to start creating a Barbie that wears a hijab. It’s about time, right? They made this announcement in honor of US Olympic fencer Ibthiaj Muhammad, who became the first American Olympian to wear a headscarf while competing during the 2016 Olympics. The doll is part of Mattel’s “Sheroes” collection and is dressed in fencing gear as well as wearing a hijab. The doll will be on sale online starting in 2018.
On their website, Mattel said that the new Barbie is “inspiration for countless little girls who never saw themselves represented in sports and culture”. They added that they hope the doll “shows girls they can be anything”. Which, I think is the key here. Isn’t it? More specifically, their skin color, or race, or culture shouldn’t prohibit them from succeeding. I could add gender in there, but I think that’s obvious.
Is this Mattel being genuine or is there something else going on? Well, they are currently facing some financial troubles, so perhaps that made this a little bit more enticing. Who else will be part of their Shero line? They are dedicating the line to inspirational women like Ashley Graham, Ava DuVernay, Misty Copeland and Gabby Douglas. But is this enough? Yes, there are more diverse Barbies, and we’ve been seeing that over the years. But I ask the question again – is this enough?
I am always on board with any kind of change or movement forward when it comes to diversity. Please do not mistake this for negativity. I do, however, have a problem that this isn’t the “norm”. I love this new Barbie. I love the fact that we are not only celebrating Muhammed’s achievements as a fencer but that we’re also incorporating her culture into the doll, which also likely was a barrier for her most of her life. But I dislike that we have to continually celebrate our differences. Like that in itself is an achievement. I am likely going to get some flack from people about what I’m saying, but it’s not a criticism of diversity itself. It’s a criticism of the system.
That being said, it’s not the best time for a corporation to come forward with a doll wearing a hijab. It honestly isn’t’ the “popular” thing to do. Which is why I want to commend Mattel. Some might call it revolutionary. I don’t want to suggest that, but if this gives even one little girl a little bit of happiness, I am fully supportive of it.
Not only are children going to be able to relate to this doll, but it will also educate other children who aren’t Muslim or wear a hijab. We are often afraid to ask questions because we are afraid of coming across as ignorant. Which is why this is a great learning tool for children. It might not answer all the questions for them, but they will at least be aware that not everyone in the world looks just like them, and that’s ok.