Mattel's first hijab-wearing Barbie represents a major step forward in terms of diversity and inclusion for the brand. The Barbie was created in November 2017 to honor Ibtihaj Muhammad, a member of the United States fencing team, and the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. Muhammad gained widespread recognition as the first Muslim American to wear a hijab while competing in the Olympics. Earning a bronze at the 2016 Summer Olympics, Muhammad also became the first Muslim American to earn an Olympic medal.
While this is an important release for Mattel and diverse Barbies, it isn’t the first time a celebrity has gotten their very own doll. Prince William and Kate Middleton, Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence, the timeless Elizabeth Taylor, and all-round perfect person Beyonce have all gotten their own Barbies. While children may enjoy Barbie for her gorgeous outfits, her cool cars, and her Malibu dream house, it’s important for Mattel to acknowledge the responsibility they have to introduce young girls to diversity and to make all kids feel included. By introducing a Barbie with a hijab, Mattel did just that.
The Barbie Is Part Of The Brand's "Shero" Line
Mattel unveiled the Barbie modeled after Ibtihaj Muhammad at Glamour's Women of the Year Live Summit in November 2017. It’s worth repeating: the doll is the very first Barbie to don a hijab in the brand’s decades-long history. The Muhammad doll is part of the “Shero” line, which celebrates extraordinary women. Past Shero Barbies include model Ashley Graham, actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth, and ballerina Misty Copeland.
Of the Barbie, Muhammad said, “I’m excited to just partner with a brand that I know honors powerful women who are breaking barriers and whose sole goal is to impact the future leaders of tomorrow.”
The doll is dressed in a fencing uniform, and comes complete with a mask and sabre. It also has one tiny detail Muhammad insisted on: "I’m also really big to into eyeliner. I like to think of my eyeliner as a shield of power; I not only wear it to the grocery store but I also wear it to compete. I wore it to the Olympic games, so I wanted my Barbie to have the perfect winged liner and also to wear a hijab."
Many Have Praised This Inclusive Step For Mattel
Many have spoken out in praise of Mattel for debuting this new Barbie. Of the doll, Glamour's editor-in-chief Cindi Leive said, "Ibtihaj Muhammad has challenged every stereotype – which to me is the definition of a modern American woman." Others, including Chelsea Clinton, took to social media to post their positive reactions.
As for Muhammad herself, she said this: “There has never been a Barbie doll to wear a hijab before. I'm really excited to have this moment happen in my life and also for all these little girls now who can shop for Barbie doll that may look them, may wear a hijab like they do, or like their mom does, or like a friend does.”
Unfortunately, There's Been Backlash As Well
Sadly, Ibtihaj Muhammad expected some backlash to her Barbie; as she put it, "As a public figure who is Muslim I am very accustomed to trolling – that is a part of my life." Like clockwork, some people responded with offensive jokes about the doll being "strapped with bombs."
Other people said that the Islamic religion can be oppressive towards women, and thus shouldn’t be celebrated in a brand geared toward impressionable children.
Barbie Has Celebrated Several Exceptional Female Athletes Of Color
Ibtihaj Muhammad isn’t the first exceptional female athlete of color to get her very own Barbie. Misty Copeland, the first African-American woman to be named principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, has a Barbie as well. Copeland said, “It's an honor to be able to inspire the next generation of kids with my very own Barbie doll.”
Gabby Douglas also received her very own Barbie. Douglas rose to worldwide fame in 2012, when she became the first black woman to win the women's gymnastics individual all-around gold medal. Of the Barbie, Douglas said, “I really hope people what people take away from the Gabby Barbie doll is to be inspired, to be encouraged to be anything that you want to be. If you have a passion or a goal, set your heart to do whatever you want to do.”