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Review: ‘Dolls Around the World’ Barbie Collection Displays Remarkably Outdated Ethnic Stereotypes

Notice anything wrong with this Mexican Barbie clutching a Chihuahua and outfitted with a passport?
 
 
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Photo Credit: MATTEL

 
 
 
 

After years of perpetuating regressive gender norms and unrealistic body image expectations, Mattel’s latest collection of “Dolls Around the World” also proves the Barbie company’s shallow understanding of ethnic culture and heritage. Look no further than the new Mexican Barbie displayed above.

That plastic Gremlin lodged underneath her right arm—that’s supposed to be a Chihuahua. According to Mattel’s website, this doll’s “vibrant pink dress with ruffles, lace, and brightly colored ribbon accents” sets her up for “a fabulous fiesta.”  Journalist and blogger Laura Martinez picked up on another rich nugget—Mexican Barbie comes with documentation in the form of a pink passport. Martinez observed, “The folks over at Mattel are so smart, that not only they have come up with a Mexican Barbie, but they have given her all the possible tools to go around the U.S. world undisturbed.”

In fact, every doll in Mattel’s collection of antiquated stereotypes comes with a passport and “country stickers.” Moreover, like Mexican Barbie and her Chihuahua, a few other lucky international Barbies get an animal friend. Here’s Chinese Barbie, naturally clutching a baby panda:

“Ni hao! That’s how I say hello,” reads Mattel’s site description for the cheongsam-donning doll, available for $29.95. “Her hair evokes drama,” the site continues, whatever that’s supposed to mean. “Inspired by classic travelogues,” it appears the largest toy company in the world sought to capture the exotic, Orientalist depictions of the East for our children’s cultural education. Indian Barbie, “ From the land of spices and sitars,” gives off a similar effect:

Yup, that’s a monkey.

Mattel’s formulaic conceptions of world culture are evident no matter where you point on the map. French Barbie wears a beret and carries a basket of baguettes. Chilean Barbie dons huasa garb and a matching hat.

“Girls enjoy exploring the world and learning about different cultures through play … The Barbie brand understands the significance of introducing new cultures to girls in a relatable way,” a Mattel spokesperson told Fox News Latino. Because who can’t relate to carrying around a panda?

At 30 years, “Dolls of the World” is one of Mattel’s longest running collections. Yet, as Felix Sanchez, chairmen of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts points out, the company remains stuck in an ignorant past.

“It would be nice to see some contemporary images from these countries,” Sanchez told Fox News Latino. “These images seem very dated and seem to have been created for a different time.”

Steven Hsieh is an editorial assistant at AlterNet and writer based in Brooklyn. Follow him on Twitter @stevenjhsieh.

 
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