Barbie has always been a point of feminist debate for its unrealistic representation of women. From setting unrealistic beauty standards to sexualisation and objectification, Barbie has survived for over 64 years since 1959. To overcome the many criticisms over the years, Mattel has been becoming more inclusive in terms of creating new Barbie models.
On Tuesday, Mattel introduced the first-ever Barbie, representing a person with Down syndrome, with the aim of being inclusive of children with the condition. It seeks to diversify its representation of beauty and fight the stigma surrounding the genetic condition.
A month after Mattel introduced Barbie with Down Syndrome, a new video of a 16-year-old girl with Down Syndrome reacting to seeing the doll is going viral on the internet. A user named Sarah Carollyn took to her Instagram handle to share a short video of her sister’s reaction to seeing the new Barbie with Down Syndrome. She wrote, "For the first time in 16 years, she finally sees a Barbie that looks like her!"
She thanked Mattel for making her dream a reality. The video shows Sarah Carollyn’s sister sitting on the couch, holding the Barbie doll in her hand, and looking at it in amazement. The girl can be seen shedding happy tears. The video posted on April 30 has garnered almost 10k likes, and the comment section is filled with loads of love and positivity.
Barbie With Down Syndrome
The new Barbie, representing a person with Down syndrome, was created after working closely with the National Down Syndrome Society on shaping the doll’s features and designing the clothing, accessories, and packaging to ensure that the representation is accurate.
For the unversed, Down syndrome is a genetic condition that affects cognition and leads to mild to severe learning disabilities. People with the condition also have distinctive facial features.
This doll looks very much like a person with Down syndrome, with a shorter frame, a larger torso, a rounder face, smaller eyes, slanted eyes, and a flat nasal bridge. The palm of the doll includes a single line resembling people with Down syndrome.
This new Barbie wears a puff-sleeved blue and yellow gown with butterfly patterns—colours and symbols associated with Down syndrome awareness. It also wears pink ankle foot orthotics and sneakers with a zipper to represent children with Down syndrome, some of whom use orthotics to support the ankles and feet.
The new doll also wears a pink pendant necklace with three upward chevrons, a symbol that unites the Down syndrome community and represents the three copies of the 21st chromosome, which is the genetic material that causes Down syndrome.
In a statement, Mattel’s executive vice president and global head, Lisa McKnight, said that they aim to enable all children to see themselves in Barbie while also encouraging children to play with dolls that do not look like themselves. She added that Mattel’s goal was to "counter social stigma through play."
Barbie, which was traditionally a slim, fair-skinned, tall, blonde-haired doll with so-called "perfect features," has been called out numerous times for its unrealistic representation of beauty. So, Mattel began making Barbie dolls of various skin colours, sizes, and ethnicities. Earlier, Mattel made Barbie dolls with prosthetic legs, hearing aids, wheelchairs, and the skin condition Vitiligo.