Why Is It So Hard to Celebrate Your Birthday With Black Barbie?

Illustration for article titled Why Is It So Hard to Celebrate Your Birthday With Black Barbie?

It took Mattel decades to introduce and widely distribute black Barbies, and the company still advertises its line with dolls as blue-eyed and flaxen-haired as a neo-Nazi child (see above.) Now, Harlem mother Karen Braithwaite is leading a group of 14 Harlem moms and thousands of others who have signed a Change.org petition calling for Mattel to diversify its products, particularly when it comes to Barbie birthday parties:

My African American daughter asked me for a Barbie party theme featuring a black Barbie for her birthday this year. I thought surely, with all of the dolls of color Barbie sells, that it would be no problem to find the party supplies with Barbies of color.

Little did I know that not only would I find nothing featuring Barbies of color, but that the only line of party supplies Mattel offers features various huge, blown up images of a blonde haired blue-eyed Barbie on literally everything except for some very small images of a brown-skinned Barbie and a brunette (possibly meant to be Hispanic) Barbie on a tablecloth, and a set of a handful of hanging decorations.

Even though it seems like a small thing, featuring the white Barbie so prominently on the banners, cups, napkins, plates, party favors, and invitations, while relegating the "ethnic" Barbies to near-invisible cameos sends a clear—and troubling—message to young girls.


Braithwaite's adorable daughter Georgia told DNAinfo that all she wanted for her fifth birthday was a black Barbie-themed party.

"They look like princesses and fairies," Georgia said while playing with two black Barbie dolls at daycare. "They look like me."

Mattel told Braithwaite that it was up to product licensee who produce party supplies to use more black faces, but Braithwaite thinks the company should take a more active role. "The portrayal of women and girls in the media - particularly as it relates to children - is getting better, but still has a long way to go," Braithwaite said.


(image via Barbie.com)


Kaylee Mindy

Ugh. So true. My 1-year-old son's babysitter is pregnant and due soon, so I went looking for a baby boy doll that we could use as a model for being gentle and caring with her new baby (we love our sitter so much - as soon as she's ready, she's welcome to come back to work with newborn in tow.) Well, every single doll in the toy store was a girl, complete with pink frilly skirts and sparkly purple jackets. And every. last. one. was white. It made so me angry.... why no racial diversity in dolls? Do little girls really only want little girl dolls? What made me sad was that this was Target, which tracks every product through a computer algorithm that is frankly insane... so I know the demand is REALLY, TRULY, PROVEN only for white girl baby dolls and my requested boy doll would just be wasted shelf space, not enough people want them or bought them in tests. Ugh.