During the holidays, I ordered my 4-year-old daughter a musical jewelry box with a ballerina on the inside that twirls to the theme from Swan Lake when it’s wound up. It reminded me of one I’d had as a little girl and I thought my little girl would cherish it, too.
When the jewelry box arrived, there was a plastic package inside the box that contained a black ballerina, which was in addition to the white one already in place. Instead of realizing it was an alternative for the white ballerina, my daughter has taken to playing with the loose black one, while the fixed white one only makes an appearance when it’s time to dance.
It was a reminder to me that we take it for granted that most dolls and their corresponding merchandise look like we do, which is to say — they’re mostly all white. Sure, there are black Barbies and American Girl Dolls, but they are more the exception than the rule. Everything is white; some things are black, and when you’re not white, I could see why that would sit right with you.
Karen Braithwaite, who is black, tried granting her 4-year-old daughter Georgia’s request for a Barbie-themed birthday party.
According to the New York Daily News, Braithwaite asked Georgia what kind of “stuff” she wanted, to which Georgia replied Barbie-themed decorations, napkins, cups and other assorted paraphernalia. She wanted them to come with black Barbies on them, except a shopping trip yielded only blonde-haired, blue-eyed Barbies.
It’s not just about the party, Braithwaite said. “It’s about promoting diversity, inclusion and respect,”
It’s about little girls being able to use their imagination while also imagining more than the same “ideal” beauty that too many girls grow up thinking is it. Other brands, including Disney, have branched out in recent years to show that there are more than just blonde heroines, and that some princesses have dark-colored skin.
“Mattel already makes millions of dollars marketing Barbies to young girls of color, with a wide range of skin tones and even hair textures, but if one of those girls wants to have a Barbie birthday party, there is only one choice,” Braithwaite sai . “Is that really the message Mattel wants to send in 2013? We think Mattel can do better.”
Mattel makes available Barbies in all different colors and from all different cultures and responded to Braithwaite by saying they will be “sharing this valuable feedback [with various partners and distributors] to start conversations and evaluate the business.”
Braithwaite also started an online petition at Change.org to get support from others in urging Mattel to broaden the scope of what’s available in their party-supply line.
One person signed the petition and wrote succinctly, “Every little girl should see herself and be proud.”
Photo credit: iStockphoto
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