Just Like Me: Barbie and Inclusivity

I remember the thrill of playing pretend with a doll that looked “just like me.” Of course, I played with many different dolls, but the one I related to the most looked like myself.

As a brown-haired, blue-eyed Caucasian girl, I found my lookalike on many store shelves.

It’s not always so easy for others to find representation for themselves. But Barbie appears to have crossed yet another threshold in inclusivity with their latest addition to the Barbie franchise.

Twitter exploded on June 27 when pictures of a new Barbie doll began circulating. The main reason people were excited? The new doll is a black Barbie with natural hair, and she has a wheelchair.

Children often struggle to feel like they fit in. Those who are disabled, have atypical body types, or are of an ethnic minority struggle even more to find a doll that looks like them. Some children may feel that their body type or ethnicity is less desirable, which can impact their self-esteem.

Dolls are more than just toys for children. According to Oxford Bibliographies, dolls can convey important cultural messages and beliefs to children. How these children view their dolls can impact how they see themselves and others.

Barbie, manufactured by Mattel, Inc., has historically broken boundaries and furthered inclusivity for little girls. Through ever-changing dolls, Barbie shows girls of all kinds what and who they can be. This newest doll introduces children to the idea of different physical limitations. Not only that, this Barbie embraces her natural hair, rather than conforming to the stereotypical straight-hair look.

From Barbie’s 200+ careers through the decades to more diverse body, skin, and hair types of the dolls, Barbie’s creators are trying to make sure every little girl has a doll that she can relate to.

Twitter user @constarlations replied to the original post and said that this kind of representation is vital for young girls.

“I saw a Barbie in target a while ago that like was short and had a similar body type to me and it made me really happy. I’m so glad Barbie is doing this so more girls can see themselves with the doll and be like ‘hey that’s me!’” @constarlations tweeted.

A Barbie who is black, embraces natural hair, and is in a wheelchair normalizes these physical differences for children. Little girls who may feel different than their friends can look to this Barbie and perhaps see themselves.

A Barbie who proudly embraces who she is can help children see that there is not one typical person to aspire to be like. She teaches that differences can be beautiful and should be embraced, both in life and in play.