Black Barbie, But Why The Long Hair?

Filed under: In The News, Toys, New In Pop Culture

Barbie So In Style designer Stacey McBride-Irby with her mini creations. Credit: Mattel/AP

Mattel has launched a new line of Barbies called So In Style, designed to look more like young black girls.

Except for the hair. The hair is straight.

And that has some parents crying foul.

According to a report by The Associated Press, the new dolls have "fuller lips, a wider nose and more pronounced cheekbones" and resemble a black person's features rather then Mattel's 1960s attempt at racial inclusiveness, which "was essentially a white doll painted brown."

While parents and pundits are praising many aspects of the new line -- a focus on education and mentoring, for example, and the varied skin tones -- they are also asking about the hair.

At first, this may sound silly. But look at the trailer for Chris Rock's new film, a documentary called "Good Hair," that explores the relationship that black women have with their hair.

Rock decided to make the film when his young daughter came home and asked her dad why she didn't have "good hair." Good hair, Rock discovered, means straight hair.

Two of the dolls have what the AP describes as "curlier hair," and quotes the doll's designer, Stacey McBride-Irby, as saying that she wanted young black girls to "to see themselves within these dolls, and let them know that black is beautiful."

If that's the case, some parents ask, then why the straight hair?

Mattel also sells a kit that allows girls to straighten and style their dolls' hair. That adds to the problem, according to Sheri Parks, a professor at the University of Maryland. "Black mothers who want their girls to love their natural hair have an uphill battle and these dolls could make it harder," Parks told the AP.

One positive, of course, is that no matter what is on their heads, these dolls look a lot more like actual young black women than the original black Barbie doll does. One little girl is quoted in the article as saying "She looks like me!" when she saw one of the dolls, mostly because the So In Style line doesn't stick with just one skin color.

Of course, there is still Barbie's impossibly skinny waist and big chest to deal with. But Rome wasn't built in a day, right?

What do you think? Is this a real issue or much ado about nothing?

Related: Pole-Dancing Doll, Breast-Feeding Doll

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.