Mattel has launched some new black Barbie dolls, and they're getting praised and dissed in equal measure. Grace, Kara, and Trichelle, created by Stacy McBride-Irby to give her daughter and other African-American girls dolls that resemble them, have been criticized by some for not being "black enough."
"I love the black Barbie. It's about time," said Jua Simpson, a reporter for CNN's iReport. "But the hair is still a step backwards, since most of our hair is not straight and light brown." (Check out BellaSugar's review of Chris Rock's documentary Good Hair, which addresses this loaded subject for black women.)
These new black Barbies could be said to be a step in the right direction for a couple reasons. First off, it's important that there's not a monolithic (i.e. white) sense of what's beautiful, and studies have shown that little girls of color do absorb the idea that white equals beautiful.
Also, it sounds like more thought was put into creating Grace, Kara, and Trichelle than the Oreo Barbie (hand smacks forehead!) that Mattel came out with in 1997. I guess with all the focus groups and marketing Mattel must surely do, no one bothered to tell them that "Oreo" is a term used by some in the black community to denote someone who is black but "acts" white. (I'm guessing the Oreo Barbie tanked?)
My question is, should we be pushing dolls (of whatever color) on girls at all? Don't dolls just get them to focus on how they look, as opposed to toys that would invite them to invent, think and do things, like boys' toys? (I mean, boys have
dolls action figures, but yeah, notice the emphasis is on action, on doing things rather than on just being pretty.)
What do you think about the new black Barbies and about dolls as girls' primary toys in general? Do you think it's outdated to push dolls on girls, or do you think girls gravitate to dolls naturally?