Home » Archive » Barbie Girl-Jemina M. Willis

Barbie Girl-Jemina M. Willis

The United States tends to constantly contradict what is advertised to those who have aspirations for a better life. The U.S. is represented as a diverse melting pot, where dreams come true and all are equally represented and have equal opportunities. There is much conflict with this misrepresentation of diversity and I feel it deeply places minority children of color at a great disadvantage. As children, speaking this time of young girls, the companies which lead in our nation’s toy industry play a major role with a child’s self-image. Barbie and its maker, Mattel, are no exception.
Where does a little African American, Asian American or Latina American girl find herself in the isles of our country’s toy stores? When watching commercial advertisements of the latest dolls and accessories, does she see images that represent her skin color or her life style? Is this important or just something else people are making a big fuss about or blowing out of proportion? I’d like to argue that this is an issue of importance and that although things are improving, more changes must be made.
As I browsed the web in search of an interesting topic, I came across the story of a mother in Harlem whose 4 year old daughter wanted a Barbie party to celebrate her 5th birthday. The issue hadn’t been in finding Barbie dolls representative of her race or ethnicity, but rather the issue of finding party supplies which lacked in ethnic variety. As a matter of fact, there were only napkins, plates, table cloths, banners and cups which represented the white, blonde haired, blue-eyed Barbie. So one might ask, “What’s the big deal”? I would first like to mention that consumers are the reason businesses exist and Mattel with Barbie at the forefront of the toy industry has not suffered financially. So, my thought is that what children and their parents want should matter a great deal. Secondly, as the girl’s mother mentioned in the article posted in The New York Observer (By Anna Silmann.April 1) titled “Barbie Blunder”, “There’s a longstanding notion that little girls of color needs to have their self-image reinforced by things they see around them, and it can be really damaging to a little girl to see an image that’s so far from anything she is,” Ms. Braithwaite told The Observer. In support of this statement, I am reminded of the Doll study conducted by Clark & Clark (1954) in the Supreme court case of Brown vs. the Board of Education (Demonstrating separate but equal schools were not equal), where black children were given two dolls, one white and one black. They were asked a series of questions based on self-perception of beauty, intelligence and kindness. All the children chose the white doll as the “good doll” and the black doll as “bad”. When asked which doll was most like them, the black children chose the black doll. I am not particularly a fan of what Barbie represents for girls, but I do believe that toy makers should be diverse in a nation that names itself a melting pot.


  1. lkkeilma says:

    Great post Jemina! Seems like someone could make a lot of money if companies would become more broadly diversified. Making a few of their dolls to represent other ethnicities should just be a start, not the end. Matell could make a lot of money if they made party supplies and other Barbie products featuring minority images.
    I do wonder how Asian Americans feel when they want to buy a doll that looks like their daughters. I make an effort to make sure my daughter has diversity represented in her toys and the one area I have no been able to represent is Asians. I can’t find an Asian doll at any of the stores!

    • willisjm says:

      Thank you. I most definitely agree with you. Even if these companies were only interested in making a profit, it would be a win-win if they were more diverse. They would make more money and have happy consumers. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: