Katelyn Liston, Reporter

An off brand Nigerian cultured doll is becoming popular due to Mattel only producing western cultured dolls.
Photo By: Brea Jones, Photographer

By: Katelyn Liston, Reporter

Typically, one can walk into any large franchise store — Wal-Mart, Target, or Toys-R-US — and find Barbies for sale. The same Barbies found in these stores can also be found around the world. Little girls in China, India, Latin America, Germany, South Africa, Brazil, and the United States have the exact same model of Barbie. However, there is a large problem with this; if girls of various cultures are playing with these Barbies, why is Mattel, a major children’s toy company, mainly producing Barbies with solely Western characteristics?

When visiting Barbie’s home page, one can easily see that only Caucasian Barbies are displayed on their front page. Yes, the Barbies have variations in eye and hair color which could be considered encompassing to nationalities, but not very much. In addition, the few Barbies that do exhibit cultural values are much more expensive than ‘normal’ Barbies and are never advertised. Considering that a Barbie doll is sold every 3 seconds, Mattel should be able to afford diversity. Instead of marketing a doll that educates children on cultures around the world, Mattel continues to produce variations of mermaid dolls and Barbie houses.

This Western focus is not only pretentious, but offensive by the extent at which other cultures are ignored. Even with all of Mattel’s factories being located in Southern and Eastern Asia, Barbies still continue to be Caucasian.

In Nigeria, however, the rule of caucasian Barbies has come to a hault. New dolls that represent African culture have created by a toy designer named Taofick Okoya and are on the market. These dolls have become so popular that they are outselling Barbies in their area. These dolls do not solely vary in skin tone either; they are actually based off the culture they are surrounded by. That’s right, no mermaid tails nor wings; instead the dolls sport headdress that keep the sun off their faces, long dresses, and cornrow braids that are common in Africa.

Senior and former Zimbabwean citizen Shivam Patel says, “We should have all different cultured dolls, so at the end of the day, you’d be basically accepting [everyone’s] culture from having dolls from around the world.”

Unfortunately, Asia, Australia, and South America are left out when it comes to popular, culturally accurate dolls. Mattel did attempt at making popular dolls for both Asian countries and Mexico, but failed by stereotyping both the Asian and Mexican doll. The Mexican Barbie wore a fiesta dress rather than a mariachi dress —a common stereotype of Mexicans — and came with a Chihuahua, while the Asian Barbie wore Western clothing and held an iPhone rather than traditional Chinese clothing.

Junior Nafisa Mostafa  says, “I think we should not have more Western control; we need to encompass the whole world because we are one. I feel a lot of Asian [cultures] are neglected especially East Asian and African cultures. I support [the Nigerian dolls], I think it’s a good idea to show there are different ideas of beauty.”

If Mattel has enough time to create Barbies that are offensive, including the Don’t Eat! doll which was a doll that had a scale perennially set to 110lbs and held a diet book which said “Don’t Eat!” on the back, all of which encourage unhealthy diets and lifestyles in children, and the pregnant Midge doll which promotes teen pregnancies, they should also have enough time to make culturally diverse and accurate dolls for children.

Hopefully, Mattel will grow out of their childish habits and produce children’s toys that teach children about more than what heels look best with Barbie’s purple glitter wings.