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What's with the Straight-Haired Barbie?

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As the mom of a biracial daughter -- who has very curly hair -- I've been searching for a doll that looks like her for almost a decade. American Girl is getting close, but they're not there yet.

mattel black barbies

Single Mom Seeking: No doubt, the mom who designed Mattel's new line of black Barbie dolls had the best of intentions. The "So In Style" Barbie dolls -- which hit mass retailers this fall -- have fuller lips, a wider nose, and more pronounced cheekbones.

Fortunately, this is a "far cry from Christie, Barbie's black friend who debuted in the 1960s and was essentially a white doll painted brown," writes Megan K. Scott in the Huffington Post.

While many black women have praised Mattel for its new line, however, others are offended by long straight hair on these new Barbies -- along with hair-straightening accessories -- being sold.

Count me among the moms who wants my kid to love her natural hair without having to straighten it (if you're curious, yes, I'm white).

Barbie designer Stacey McBride-Irby -- who is black and has a 6-year-old daughter -- told the Associated Press that she wanted to create a line of dolls for young black girls that looked like them and were inspirational and career-minded. For example, Kara is interested in math and music.

FYI, the "So In Style" hairstyling set -- so girls can curl, straighten, and style their dolls' hair over and over -- costs $24.99, more than a pair of dolls at $19.99.

But as my own hairstylist pointed out when I asked him, "At the end of the day, it's the parent's decision to buy the doll. If it offends you, don't buy it."

So, moms, what do you think about the new line of Barbies? Will you be buying one for your daughters?

12 comments so far | Post a comment now
none October 29, 2009, 11:30 AM

Quit complaining. Do you see an asian Barbie? At least your daughter has a toy that at least shares some features that matches her.

Mom who loves cute dolls October 29, 2009, 11:35 AM

Better than nothing. For a long time, there haven’t been any black Barbies, etc. for sale. Take a look around the aisles next time you are at ToysRUs and try to imagine you have a black daughter. No fairies, no princesses, no mermaids for her. Just Bratz.

Let’s buy these things and ask for more hairstyles.

Emma October 29, 2009, 2:24 PM

OMG if is not one thing is another people are NEVER HAPPY I’m Dominican with very curly hair and guess what i do? I Straighten my hair on a regular basis specially in the winter. Does that mean that I don’t love my curls NO it just means that sometimes I like a little variation. There are a LOT of African American women who like their hair straight others like it natural and for what I see looking at those dolls that is what they are representing. Sometimes i think thie “blogger” moms don’t have anything else to talk about and they just make stuff up seriously

Miranda October 29, 2009, 5:44 PM

“How did Mattel’s vision of beauty come to mean only straight hair”

Well, I do think part of it was racially motivated and part of it was for convienence. I have both curly and straight hair (meaning the top part is pin-straight while the underpart is thick, kinky curls) and let me tell you, the straight hair occasionally gets knotted but the curly hair frequently gets tangled into a matted nest and is difficult to style. Little girls are not going to want to play with dolls that require as much hair maintenence as the girls themselves do. It’s unfortunate that we can’t have Barbies with ALL hair types (long, short, relaxed, uber-curly) but unfortunately the market dictates otherwise.

jennifer October 29, 2009, 9:28 PM

I have bi racial kids as well and think these barbies are better then what we are used to. Many woman straighten their hair and now and again I flat iron my 8 year olds hair. I hope they did this due to convienence yet back in the 80’s I had a barbie with very curly hair and she was my favorite. Her hair was a bit harder to maintain but I loved her and her hair looked fine.So barbie can make it work they have before. I’m sure they will in due time. I will buy these barbies. They look more like my kids do then these other barbies out. I assume if these don’t sale well then maybe not. I say we all support and purchase so barbies can get richer in diversity and honor all cultures correctly. Sorry if typos on the blackberry.

mercaties October 29, 2009, 10:24 PM

OMG. This lady has Way too mutch time on her hands. Do you really think your daughter cares what her Barbie looks like? To answer you question I wont be buying any Barbies for my eight year old daughter but that’s just because she isn’t into Barbies. She’s totally obsessed with Littlest Pet Shops.

Arani October 30, 2009, 7:51 AM

Black women, as well as women of color all over the world have different textures of hair, skin color, facial features, etc. You can see a large difference even from one sibling to the next. As a Black woman, I am happy to see these Barbies. There will never be a perfect representation because there is no way that doll can represent all women of color, but as the saying goes, “we’ve come a long way, baby”. Instead of complaining about the hair texture being too straight, perhaps the blogger should teach her child that not everyone looks a like and that she should realize that beautiful women cover all spectrums of the rainbow.

Robin October 30, 2009, 1:41 PM

Am I the only one that sees the dolls in the picture have 3 different kinds of hair; straight, wavy curls and curly? I would definitely say the one on the right has curly hair and I think all three dolls are gorgeous.

JouJou November 2, 2009, 8:25 PM

Mercaties, It’s not that Jennifer has too much time on her hands. You have to understand someones culture. I know that in my culture although as a small child I played the piano and have fond memories of listening to Beetoven which peeked my interest in classical music.How ever I had and wanted barbie dolls. All of which were white. I am of Haitian descent, however grew up in the US where barbies were a big deal. The point is not having the option of having dolls that represent how your child looks when dolls are of interest to them hurts.

You must be aware that the media has just recently been depicting women of color the way we naturally look without altering our natural features. I Hope this helps and that you don’t find that I have to much time on my hands.

Just some food for thought. :)!

Peace and Prosperity, JouJou

Anonymous November 3, 2009, 11:27 AM

You might think about checking out the Karito Kids line for your daughter -they have an AA doll with adorable curls. Don’t know if it’s what you’re looking for but it’s worth a peek.

Emily November 10, 2009, 2:37 PM

I know what you mean! When I was younger I used to play with Teresa all the time because she was the only barbie with dark hair like me. I am white but have very dark brown curly hair many people think I am biracial but my skin is a little lighter then olive. They had and still do not have dolls that resemble me. It stinks. I really hope for you and your daughters sake they come out with one soon! I actually believe it is harder to find a barbie that looks like that then one that is black.

Heather January 7, 2011, 11:55 AM

All I know is I’m white and I have never had a barbie *look like me*!!! haven’t you guys heard they are all pathetically thin and perfect? Nobody LOOKS just like barbie!! She’s a toy. A little imagination (ugh, did I just say that?) goes a long way!!!

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