Toy Maker Mattel Is Distancing Its Barbie Brand Away From the Word "Feminism"

In this Sept. 29, 2015, photo, Barbie Fashionista Dolls from Mattel are displayed at the TTPM Holiday Showcase in New York. The U.S. toy industry is expected to have its strongest year in over a decade. Richard Dickson, Mattel’s president and chief operating officer, told investors that he’s seeing “a lot of positive momentum” coming from its two biggest brands _ Barbie and Fisher-Price. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Barbie is dodging political labels.

The most famous girl’s toy on the planet has been in the crosshairs for some time by feminists and social justice warriors for being a toy that relates negative messages to girls in terms of body image and style.


This has caused Mattel, Barbie’s creators, to make changes to their famous doll line, including different body types and a more realistic shape for Barbie.

Regardless, Mattel’s most famous doll does $1 billion in sales across the globe every year, and 92% of American girls ages 3 to 12 have owned a Barbie. Despite the complaining by feminists, Barbie has been the doll that encouraged girls to be whatever they wanted to be, even a rapper.

It would appear, however, that Mattel is about to give feminists even more reason to complain, as Barbie senior vice-president Lisa McKnight was recently asked by The Cut if Barbie is a feminist during an article covering Barbie’s new job as an online influencer.

McKnight’s answer was very careful, but very disappointing for those who subscribe to the social justice identity according to The Cut.

When I ask McKnight if Barbie is a feminist, there’s a long pause. “I’m trying to think of the right way to phrase this,” she says. “Barbie is about equality and empowerment.” Another celebrity with a complicated relationship to feminism. No wonder she’s so popular.

The answer to this question a few years ago would have been an automatic “yes,” but it would appear that the world’s most famous girl toy is being very careful to skirt around the word as if it were a mine waiting to go off.


And it likely is. Feminism has become a word associated with some of the worst behavior women have to offer, and has saddled been saddled with political connotations. Women everywhere are perfectly willing to stand up and say they support women’s empowerment and equality, but wouldn’t go so far as to identify themselves as feminist.

In fact, according to a recent poll by GenForward, fewer than 20 percent of millennials call themselves feminist with women refusing to label themselves such as 62 percent. With millennials having children and purchasing toys for their girls, the feminist title is likely an identity Barbie’s creators would rather them avoid.


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