Barbie has just released the newest doll in their Shero (female heroes) collection. It has made the headlines for being the first to wear a hijab.
For a while now, Barbie dolls have been subject to a lot of scrutiny for their lack of diversity – be it their height, size or skin colour – and the messages they are sending out to the younger generation. Not only is it important that children are surrounded by all forms of diversity from a young age, it is also crucial that young girls in particular are not fed negative ideas about body image and femininity. It has famously been revealed that the traditional Barbie doll that so many of us idolised during our childhoods could not possibly survive due to her height, weight and body dimensions which do not physically leave enough room for all her vital organs.
However, looking forward, this new, history-making, hijab-wearing doll was announced at Glamour’s Woman of the Year Summit and will be available next year. The Barbie has been based on the Olympic fencer, Ibtihaj Muhammad, who became the first American Olympian to compete in a hijab at the 2016 games. Unlike the traditional doll, she has muscular thighs, dark skin and wears a fencing outfit alongside her hijab.
This Barbie is the 10th in the new range of Shero Barbies, which are described on their website as ‘female heroes who inspire girls by breaking boundaries and expanding possibilities for women everywhere’. This inspirational doll is not the first step towards a more representative one, last year Barbie released a range of ‘fashionista’ dolls who are available in curvy, tall and petite forms with a range of hair colour, eye colour and skin tone. With the announcement of the hijab barbie, we are getting ever closer to making children’s toys more representative of reality.
In an interview with Teen Vogue, Muhammad said: ‘Today, I’m proud to know that little girls who wear a hijab and, just as powerfully, those who don’t, can play with Barbie in a headscarf‘. The way she addresses ‘those who don’t’ is particularly poignant and, I agree, just as powerful, if not even more so. Previously, Barbie was very unrepresentative for so many children, and according to the BBC, Muhammad used to make headscarves out of tissues for her own Barbie dolls. However, this is a step in the right direction. Now children who wear hijabs won’t have to alter their toy to be more like them, and Muhammad has said that she wants children ‘to take [the hijab]off and try it on their other Barbies’.
Hopefully, in the not too distant future, stories like this one will be far less of a big deal. Hopefully brands will not be praised for representing everyone, but on the contrary, reprimanded if they don’t. This is a very welcome step towards fighting stigmas and changing the way that everyone, not just children, views other cultures. Something to be welcomed rather than feared.