What About Ken, Mattel?

Women don’t come in one size, and neither do Mattel’s new line of Barbies.

On Jan. 28, Mattel announced that Barbie will now come in four body types, seven skin tones, 22 eye colors and 24 hairstyles. In the unveiling of their new line, Mattel issued a statement saying that the new dolls “represent a line that is more reflective of the world girls see around them.” It’s about time, Mattel. But did you forget about Ken?

Women have been praising Mattel all over social media for finally giving the 57-year-old Barbie a makeover. However, Mattel’s Barbie sales were down for the third year in a row. Editor-in-chief Jim Silver of TTPM.com, a toy-focused website, even said the solution to the decline of Barbie is to add more diversity to the doll lineup. So does the new life-like Barbie come from a place of wanting to represent women around the world, or a place of raising Mattel’s sales? It's naive to think that Mattel won't be profiting off each Barbie's new clothes and accessories.

 

It’s 2016, Mattel. Why do we still have a blonde haired, muscular figured, male Barbie doll? You can argue that young boys don’t play with Barbie dolls and don’t idolize them in the same way that a young female will. You might be right. Why should all of these young women grow up thinking that their dream guy is going to have rock-hard abs and a tan, chiseled face? Why should young girls grow up thinking that all men are supposed to look like that when they’re older and if they don’t, they’re not attractive enough? 

 

Guys come in all shapes and sizes, too. I’m not condoning making “Dad Bod Ken”. I’m not condoning “Beer Belly Ken”. I’m condoning giving Ken the Barbie the same plastic surgery that is long overdue. What about African American Ken? What about disabled Ken? What about facial hair Ken? The new Mattel Barbie line-up is a win for females. When will we be able to celebrate a win for the bodies of all humans?

Jill Filipovic in a Time magazine piece said “It’s a feminist victory, especially for parents who want to allow their kids the creative fun of playing with dolls but don’t want to send the message that looking like Barbie is something to which girls should aspire. One pointy-toed step forward, though, is hardly a giant leap for womankind. Barbie is literally objectified woman.”

There's nothing wrong with the new Barbie collection. Nor is there anything problematic with young girls getting the message that it's okay to not be a size 0 and size DD breasts. What's not okay is sending boys the message that if they can't look like Ken, they're undesirable. There's something wrong with feeding girls the fantasy that her prince charming is going to come riding into the sunset with flowy blonde hair and perfect teeth. As Filipovic said best, "the new Barbie may reflect a feminist culture shift, but let's not fool ourselves into thinking more diversity means Mattel has the best interests of your daughter at heart."

Thanks, Mattel, for the changes you needed to make five decades ago to Barbie. Thanks, Mattel, for making a change to save your business. But from someone who knows that not all men fit in the small category that you advertise, I’ll be holding off on thanking you for your “realistic” depiction of Ken.