Barbie has been influencing young girls since her debut back in 1959. Ruth Handler, who created the smiling blond fashion doll, stated that Barbie was intended to be a role model for women.
“My whole philosophy of Barbie was that, through the doll, the girl could be anything she wanted to be,” Handler, co-founder of Mattel, has been quoted as saying. “Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices.”
Through imaginative play, Barbie has shown little girls that they can become anything, from nurses and doctors, firefighters, scientists and even presidents. Most recently, Barbie is letting kids know that they can help fight racism.
In an animated “vlog” on Barbie’s YouTube channel, she and her friend Nikki, who is Black, have an open discussion. Nikki shares some of her experiences, which shock her friend.
“That’s not fair because that means that white people get an advantage they didn’t earn, and Black people get a disadvantage that they don’t deserve,” Barbie says. Nikki goes on to say that making assumptions about other people can be hurtful.
The vlog was posted in 2020, when millions of people around the U.S. were marching and protesting racial injustice.
“When enough of us stand together, people pay attention,” Nikki shares.
Below, you can watch the complete video, which currently has nearly 1.5 million views.
Barbie’s vlog is part of an effort by Mattel to empower girls, both in fun and serious ways. Previous video topics have included gaslighting when jokes go too far, how girls often over-apologize, and mental health.
Mattel was the first brand to announce a corporate Play Fair commitment. The toy brand committed to increasing Black representation, with more Black role models and resources dedicated to supporting Black girls. The brand is donating $250,000 to NAACP youth programs, and it committed to donating another $250,000 in proceeds from future product sales and initiatives to fund educational programs focused on supporting Black girls.
A thread from Mattel in June 2020, which followed this tweet, outlined specific commitments.
“Children cannot reach their full potential when the fields of play are unequal, unbalanced and unfair,” it read.
This is just the beginning. In addition to the corporate commitment from Mattel, @Barbie has also announced a commitment to the Black community. Learn more at https://t.co/mOY3u4J5GK #PlayFair pic.twitter.com/QuGZAECamj
— MATTEL (@Mattel) June 12, 2020
In 2020, the brand promised to introduce a prominent Black lead character and to leverage the platform Barbie has as a role model to tackle conversations around race and racism.
“When we don’t say anything,” Barbie states in the video, “we’re just letting it continue.”
Mattel told CNN in a statement that the goal of this vlog episode was to help girls understand the movement against racism and the importance of learning more about Black history.
“Barbie is championing gender equality to help close the racial injustice barrier girls face through the Dream Gap and this is one way the brand is addressing it,” Mattel said.