Mattel Breaks the Mold with Gender Neutral Dolls


Kaylee Lewis, Staff writer, Social Media

Mattel, the company responsible for America’s beloved Barbie, has been making toys and inspiring children for over 60 years. Recent years of change in society have inspired the company to make changes to their dolls to be more inclusive in terms of race, body type, and women’s job roles, and last month, Mattel again broke its own mold by launching a line of gender neutral dolls in an attempt to support the population of gender-nonbinary individuals. 

In the last decade,  Mattel has been incorporating greater diversity within its products. In 2016, the company released Barbies with three different body types, including tall, petite and curvy, battling the unrealistic body image portrayed by its dolls.This fall, Mattel will be adding a Barbie who sits in a wheelchair to its collection. 

Following this streak of greater inclusion, the company launched the Creatable World series with the slogan, “A doll line designed to keep labels out and invite everyone in.”

 The dolls come with short and long hair, six pieces of clothing, three pairs of shoes and two accessories that children can mix and match into any combination. They don’t include any of the distinctive features that Barbie and Ken dolls have, like full eyelashes or broad shoulders. The dolls come in six different skin tones and are retailing for $29.99. 

With this launch has come much support, many believing it will help kids with acceptance today. 

“They can know that they’re not alone, that there are other people like them and they’re not freaks,” said J Strater, a sophmore at McDowell who identifies as bisexual. 

According to a study by the William Institute at the UCLA School of Law, 150,000 teens in the U.S between the ages of 13 to 17, identify as transgender or gender non-conforming.

“These dolls could help a lot of kids if they’re feeling confused about why they’re feeling a certain way,” said Cody Dyne, a junior who identifies as transgender. 

Dyne thinks that as gender identity and LGBTQ topics become supported by many mainstream companies, like Mattel, that it will also change the conversations around the dinner tables of America.

“It brings it up so it’s easier to talk about within families,” he said. Parents may have a hard time bringing up the topic of gender identity with their children. Many children are scared of their parents’ reactions. 

“I always knew this is how I’m supposed to be, but I was scared that my parents would get really mad at me,” Dyne explained. “I didn’t want to disappoint them, that’s why is took me so long to come out.” 

Dyne also sees this product from Mattel taking a new approach to children’s play in general. “If little boys only see other boys playing with trucks, then they’ll want to play with trucks,” he said. 

Many people have also said these dolls could help break down gender barriers within the toy industry. For years stores and companies have been separating and advertising their toys by gender, in different aisles or in the traditional pink for girls and blue for boys. Kids are brought up to think that there are certain toys they need to play with because of their gender, but changing the dialogue around dolls is one step toward making play gender neutral.

“I don’t think toys should be classified by gender,” said Emmett Allred, a junior who identifies as non-binary. “There are some boys who would rather play with Barbie dolls, there are some girls who would rather play with trucks, and that’s okay.” 

It’s believed that these versatile dolls, will lessen the stigma around kids playing with toys that aren’t marketed for their genders.

Along with support there has been criticism from consumers and many in the LGBTQ community. Many parents have expressed worries that their kids might get confused and start questioning their gender when seeing these dolls.

The dolls not only come with different pieces of clothing, but also short and long hair so kids can customize their doll to their own preference. “I do think it could give the wrong impression,” Dyne said. “It makes (gender) seem more like a choice.” 

Allred isn’t sure if he would buy Creatable World doll for a child in his life. “I’m not trying to confuse my kid over their gender. They need to understand that being trans or non-binary is okay, but a lot of kids do it for the attention.” 

Some parents aren’t happy that Mattel is showing support for the LGBTQ community. “It honestly depends on what kind of parents you have,” Strater said. There has been criticism from many people in the LGBTQ community as well. Many trans and non- binary individuals have expressed worries. “People should be able to express themselves, but it might confuse some kids,” Allred said. 

There has also been a number of people saying the product in general doesn’t correctly represent non-binary individuals and their causes. “They did the best that they could trying to explain non-binary, but I just don’t think that it was the best approach,” Dyne explains. To medically transition to another gender, you must be diagnosed with gender dysphoria which is a feeling of distress due to your biological sex and gender identity not matching. “It is a mental illness… You can’t explain depression or anxiety through a doll.” 

A number of people have also said that with this release, Mattel is trying to push a liberal agenda by showing their support for the LGBTQ community, but Strater disagrees. 

“They’re not pushing a political agenda, they’re just doing what they think kids want, what they think will sell,” she said. Some people have said that companies like Mattel should stay out of controversial topics such as LGBTQ rights or that companies shouldn’t take sides in politics or other causes, that companies shouldn’t try to influence their customers beliefs. But Dyne believes that consumers today want to support companies that align with their beliefs. 

“People want to know what they’re supporting when they give their money away,” Dyne said. “Some people don’t want to give their money to a company that supports things that they don’t.” 

Rachael Wagner, a junior at McDowell believes kids should be able to express themselves through their toys however they want, “Their purpose is to make kids happy, so we shouldn’t try to take that away from them by forcing them to be a certain way,” she said. “If they feel like they want to play with something else they shouldn’t be ashamed.”