“It’s kind of cool to have people look different,” a young girl says, with two dolls in her hands. One is blonde and blue-eyed, the other has darker tones – and both are Barbie.
In a bold move from Mattel, Barbie will now be available in 7 different skin tones and 22 eye colors. The most startling change, though, is that she will also have 4 body types: original, petite, tall, and curvy.
Releasing over time throughout the year, the 2016 Barbie Fashionistas Dolls line will also include 24 hairstyles, and of course, “countless on-trend fashions and accessories.” The line builds on the company’s “You Can Be Anything” campaign that began last year in an attempt to reinvigorate Barbie’s image and sales.
After 56 years in production, the change isn’t exactly “progressive,” and the company expects that many critics will say that the changes don’t go far enough. Barbie’s thigh gap is gone, but four categories of body cannot possibly reflect all of the body types in the world. The changes have already caused headaches for designers and soon will for merchandisers and moms, too. TIME Magazine reported that it took the design team months to determine what to call the body types and decide on translations for them to avoid being offensive. The dolls will need more shelf space in stores to reflect the expanded choices. Barbie will now need different clothing sizes, so children will not be able to mix-and-match their dolls’ clothes as easily. Customers will need to think more carefully about which doll to purchase so as not to offend anyone they are purchasing the dolls for.
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“Haters are going to hate,” Richard Dickson, the President and COO of Mattel told TIME. “We want to make sure the Barbie lovers love us more – and perhaps changing the people who are negative to neutral. That would be nice.”
Mattel’s research has shown that moms across the U.S. care about diversity in terms of color and body, regardless of age, race or socioeconomic position. Children as young as 6 are already conditioned for a particular silhouette in their dolls and women’s body image in general, which was reflected in Mattel’s focus groups. Without adults in the room, children would often call curvy Barbie fat and make other jokes.
“We see it a lot. The adult leaves the room and they undress the curvy Barbie and snicker a little bit,” Missad told TIME. “For me, it’s these moments where it just really sets in how important it is we do this. Over time I would love it if a girl wouldn’t snicker and just think of it as another beautiful doll.”