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Barbie creator Mattel to release new line of gender-neutral dolls

Mattel said new Creatable World line was designed ‘to keep labels out and invite everyone in.’

Mattel celebrates Barbie’s 60th Anniversary since the brand was introduced at New York Toy Fair in 1959. The iconic anniversary career and commemorative dolls pay homage to Barbie’s six-decade history, shown at New York Toy Fair on Friday, Feb. 15, 2019.
Diane Bondareff/AP Images for Mattel

The company behind Barbie is releasing a new kind of doll with its Creatable World line, USA Today reported.

Describing Creatable World as a line designed “to keep labels out and invite everyone in,” according to USA Today, Mattel is calling the dolls the world’s first gender-neutral dolls.

Each Creatable World doll, which lacks the curves of Barbie and the broad shoulders of Ken, will come in a kit that includes short and long hair options, six pieces of clothing, three pairs of shoes and two gender-neutral accessories, according to USA Today.

“This line allows all kids to express themselves freely, which is why it resonates so strongly with them,” said Kim Culmone, senior vice president of Mattel Fashion Doll Design, in a statement reported by Fox Business. “We’re hopeful Creatable World will encourage people to think more broadly about how all kids can benefit from doll play.”

A recent study showed that when toy vehicles were painted white (without any color to signal whether it was a “girl’s toy” or a “boy’s toy”), both girls and boys chose to play with the toy equally as often, according to Time.

One of the psychologists behind the study, Lisa Dinella, explained to Time that “removing gendered cues from toys facilitates play between boys and girls” — teaching important skills for both genders to develop as they move into adulthood, home life and the workplace.

“If boys, like girls, are encouraged to learn parental skills with doll play at a young age, you wind up with more nurturing and empathetic fathers,” Dinella told Time.

In testing groups for the Creatable World dolls, some parents found the “gender-neutral” labels too political, according to Time. But Mattel rejects the idea that the dolls are meant as a political statement.

“We’re not in the business of politics,” Mattel President Richard Dickson told Time, “and we respect the decision any parent makes around how they raise their kids. Our job is to stimulate imaginations. Our toys are ultimately canvases for cultural conversation, but it’s your conversation, not ours; your opinion, not ours.”

Six in 10 parents agreed that the way in which toys are marketed “reinforces stereotypes about what girls and boys can do” in a survey this year from the Fawcett Society, according to Reuters.

“It’s really nice to see a doll line that is as welcoming to boys as it is to girls,” Jess Day, from the Let Toys be Toys campaign, told Reuters about the new Creatable World dolls, adding, “Most parents don’t really want to see their children’s interests limited.”

This is not the first time that Mattel has made an effort to create more inclusive dolls, according to Time. In 2016, the company released a line of Barbies with three new body types: petite, tall and curvy. And another Barbie line in 2019 featured dolls with various physical disabilities, including a doll in a wheelchair, according to CNN.