Mattel has introduced its first Barbie doll representing a person with Down syndrome as part of its Barbie Fashionistas line. While the move is intended to promote diversity and fight the stigma around physical disabilities, some people are questioning whether Mattel has gone too far in its quest for inclusion. Is a Down syndrome Barbie really necessary?
Over the years, Barbie has faced criticism for promoting an unrealistic body type, leading to declining sales for Mattel. In response, the company has made efforts to be more inclusive and diverse in the dolls’ appearance. The Fashionistas line includes dolls with prosthetic legs, hearing aids, and wheelchairs, as well as a doll with the skin condition vitiligo.
The newest Barbie representing a person with Down syndrome has a different face and body sculpt that is meant to accurately represent women with the condition. She wears an ankle foot orthotic that matches her dress and sneakers with a zipper, which represents children with Down syndrome who use orthotics. Her dress features a pattern of butterflies, yellow, and blue, which are symbols associated with Down syndrome awareness, and she wears a pink pendant necklace with three upward chevrons, representing the three copies of the 21st chromosome.
While the National Down Syndrome Society is excited about the new Barbie doll, some people are questioning whether the inclusion of a doll with Down syndrome is necessary. However, Mattel’s executive vice president and global head of Barbie & dolls, Lisa McKnight, believes that encouraging children to play with dolls who do not look like themselves can teach understanding and empathy.
What’s next for the Barbie Fashionistas line? Trans Barbie with removeable parts? Only time will tell.
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