Since the first Barbie doll was released in 1959, most Barbies looked relatively alike — Caucasion and unattainably thin with an innocent-looking face. However, in recent years, the dolls have diversified and now resemble multiple cultures.
Barbie has played a major role in the toy industry since being created by Ruth Handler, who was inspired by the German doll “Bild Lilli” and worked with Mattel Inc. to make what has since taken over the toy world.
While the concern of diversity has been prominent in recent years, the Barbie company has made improvements and new dolls that represent other cultures.
Brooke Porter, sophomore creative writing major, said she understands how diversity in children’s toys can affect the way young girls view themselves.
“If there are no colored toys or Barbies, then girls will begin to see the image of beauty as something that they can never achieve,” Porter said. “No one can ever be perfect and the Barbie product has always been ‘perfect.’ That is not healthy for young people to see.”
If an African-American child only played with Caucasion dolls, he or she may begin to see body ideals as thin and Caucasian.
The first African American Barbie was made in 1968, but still had the same body figure as the Caaucasion ones. Thankfully, the toy industry has addressed the problem and has begun to introduce more diverse dolls that truly represent the look and style of other cultures than just American ones.
“Girls see their dolls as people they eventually want to be and when the dolls are stick-thin the girls begin to become self-conscious if they do not meet those specific standards,” said Morgan Baker, freshman kinesiology major. “Toys should be much more diverse so that they represent actual human bodies.”
The great hope of society right now seems to be that every child sees the opportunity to become his or her own person and that they acknowledge the freedom they have to make their own choices and decisions.
However, when there is a lack of diversity in the younger generations’ toys that freedom is taken away bit by bit.
Shannon O’Conner, junior psychology major, said she has reflected on the effect of diversity on young people and adults alike.
“Young girls do not see a line of Caucasion dolls as fair or right, they see them as the picture of perfection and beauty and, in turn, internalize that,” O’Conner said.
Hopefully toy companies continue to create things that better represent other people groups because children look up to whatever they choose to play with. Barbie and action figures can become idols for children who see them as the superheros that they may never be and the fashion icons they wish to become.
Barbie and other products can hold the power to influence the way girls see beauty standards, so culture sensitivity is needed.