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Amelia Earhart, Frida Kahlo, and Katherine Johnson as Barbie dolls.
ROLE MODEL

Mattel announced 15 “role model” Barbies in honor of International Women’s Day

By Noël Duan

Mattel’s Barbie has had over 150 careers since she was created 58 years ago—from the controversial Computer Engineer Barbie in 2010 to a Barbie styled as an American presidential candidate in 1992, over two decades before Hillary Clinton was the first female presidential candidate nominated by a major party.

To mark this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8, Mattel announced 15 new dolls for its “Shero” and “Inspiring Women” collections, which are “role model” dolls crafted in the likeness of real iconic women.

While similar in spirit, the key difference between the two collections is that “Shero” dolls are modeled after women currently making headlines, while the “Inspiring Women” dolls are of women who have made lifelong contributions to the world. The new “Shero” additions (with their home nations) are:

  1. Patty Jenkins, director of Wonder Woman (US)
  2. Chloe Kim, the youngest woman to win an Olympic snowboarding medal (US)
  3. Bindi Irwin, conservationist (Australia)
  4. Nicola Adams, the first woman to win an Olympic boxing title (UK)
  5. Leyla Piedayesh, knitwear designer (Germany)
  6. Yuan Yuan Tan, prima ballerina of the San Francisco Ballet (China)
  7. Xiaotong Guan, actress (China)
  8. Martyna Wojciechowska, journalist and explorer (Poland)
  9. Sara Gama, soccer champion (Italy)
  10.  Hélène Darroze, two Michelin-star chef (France)
  11.  Hui Ruoqi, Olympic gold medalist in volleyball (China)
  12.  Nicola Adams, OBE, boxing champion (UK)

They join Olympic fencing champion Ibtihaj Muhammad (USA), film director Ava Duvernay (USA), gymnastic champion Gabby Douglas (USA), ballerina Misty Copeland (USA), model Ashley Graham (USA), and other women who were inducted as “Sheroes” in previous years. Interestingly, three of the new dolls are modeled after household names in China, pointing to Mattel’s strategy towards the Chinese market after failing to capture it in the early 2000s.

Meanwhile, the Inspiring Women series additions are:

  1. Frida Kahlo, artist (Mexico)
  2. Amelia Earhart, aviation pioneer (USA)
  3. Katherine Johnson, NASA mathematician and physicist (USA)

“All three of these courageous women took risks, changed rules and paved the way for generations of girls to dream bigger than ever before!” Mattel announced in a press release.

These 15 new dolls come with educational pamphlets about the women that they are modeled after, and are available for pre-order for $29.99.

As with all of Mattel’s efforts to reimagine Barbie as a feminist figure, the new dolls have also been met with mixed reception. The Chicago Tribune called them “frightfully thin.” Some fans have asked why the Adams doll does not have any muscles, particularly when last year, the reveal of Muhammad’s Shero doll was celebrated for its careful attention to her muscled physique. But if kids are going to play with dolls—and they will—at least they get to learn about real women, not just Barbie in role play.