Barbie Dolls and Columbus Day. What’s the Connection?

by Melanie Edwards on October 12, 2009 · 18 comments

in Parenting

It’s funny how the world sometimes reaches out to you. I’m not normally one to go around “looking for signs,” but sometimes you just can’t miss them.

Two months ago, I wrote about how brown dolls are not enough and we need more multicultural dolls.

This weekend, I came across an article titled Mattel introduces black Barbies. Introduces? It seemed odd since there have been black Barbies in the brand for a while. But, as the article’s opening line states, the So in Style dolls are “…a new line of black Barbie dolls with fuller lips, a wider nose and more pronounced cheek bones — a far cry from Christie, Barbie’s black friend who debuted in the 1960s and was essentially a white doll painted brown.”

Facial features. Going beyond just painting dolls brown. Finally!

The last connecting dot in all this is that the dolls’ designer, Stacey McBride-Irby, was just at the Blogalicious 2009 conference held this past weekend. So here I am on Monday, reading some of the conference recaps and the #blogalicious tweets and find myself circling back to the article I just read. And back to thinking about my baby girl and how she just might have a chance at seeing things differently growing up.

All of this on a day where part of the world celebrates and the other part watches Reconsider Columbus Day and nods their head in agreement.

It is encouraging to see that my baby girl will have dolls in her likeness to play with. And though I agree with the critique that the Barbie So in Style dolls have mostly long straight hair, I also see that there’s a huge improvement over the dolls I played with. Side note: two of the dolls do have short, curly hair, so I can see that it was given some thought. And my husband also pointed out just what the dolls’ designer had in mind – little girls love to comb their doll’s hair.

It is also encouraging to think that my daughter may not have to celebrate Columbus Day, but instead might have a chance at real education on the subject of Columbus and the history behind him “discovering” America. That is, in school, and not just supplemental education provided by my husband and I.

Most wouldn’t even connect these two. Dolls and Columbus day? But, the world calls out sometimes in a funny way and your mind connects the dots in an even more interesting manner.

So here I am. Feeling optimistic that my multicultural and bilingual daughter will be able to embrace both sides of her family, both cultures, and be loved by all as the Black and Latina woman she will become.

Watch these videos and consider the following questions:

  • Why haven’t I seen any commercials for the dolls? The article was the first time I heard about them.
  • Why haven’t I seen them in the stores? I was *just* in the Barbie aisle the other day at Target looking for a present for a birthday party we were attending Saturday. I do not remember seeing these dolls.
    • Edited 10/13/09: Ok, I went into a Target again last night and did see a few of the dolls.
  • What will I teach my child(ren) about Christopher Columbus?

Reconsider Columbus Day

Barbie So-In-Style Dolls Friends Of Barbie Meet The Designer Part One

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1 Melanie @ Mel, A Dramatic Mommy October 12, 2009 at 1:29 pm

I live in So Cal and have seen the TV commercial several times. I’m still not sure how I feel about these dolls, but agree that they are more positive than negative.

2 Melanie (Modern Mami) October 14, 2009 at 6:14 am

@Melanie @ Mel, A Dramatic Mommy, I finally saw the commercial last night! There are improvements to be made, but it’s progress.

3 Lisa October 12, 2009 at 1:37 pm

I love this idea about the Barbie dolls. When I was a little girl, I often wondered why the dolls never “looked” like me. I can’t wait to go out and buy them for both daughters.

PS Can I use your “Reconsider..” video on my site? I will have a link to your blog as well.


4 Melanie (Modern Mami) October 14, 2009 at 6:15 am

@Lisa, I hope your daughters like them. I haven’t found one of the ones I like for baby girl yet in the stores. And thanks for the link!

5 Nicole October 13, 2009 at 12:09 am

Loving your site. The reconsider video was great and the dolls are well overdue. I’de like to see them with fuller hips & kinky afro like myself.


6 Melanie (Modern Mami) October 14, 2009 at 6:16 am

@Nicole, So glad to hear that! I agree that there’s still some improvements to be made on the dolls.

7 ThatsSoYummy October 13, 2009 at 10:31 am

I attended Blogalicious 2009 in Atlanta this past weekend and one of the wonderful giveaways were these beautiful African American barbie dolls. I am extremely proud and honored that Stacy McBride-Irby has created these dolls not only to represent her daughter, my daughter and all of the other multi-cutural daughters out there but to also show that no matter what your skin tone is you are still beautiful.

I am proud of her accomplishment and cannot wait to see my daughter play with beautiful barbie doll.

8 Melanie (Modern Mami) October 14, 2009 at 6:17 am

@ThatsSoYummy, I think it was a wonderful way for her to spread the word on the new dolls by being there. And I’m so jealous that you were at Blogalicious! 😉

9 Jill@ModernMommyBlog October 15, 2009 at 5:42 pm

Unfortunately the Target by my house doesn’t have any non-white Barbies. Drive’s me insane!

10 Melanie (Modern Mami) October 16, 2009 at 8:30 pm

@Jill@ModernMommyBlog, Maybe they’ll get them soon! I didn’t see them at first, but am now seeing them.

11 Mariana October 16, 2009 at 8:40 pm

I saw these dolls at a toy showcase earlier this month, and was actually impressed. I mean, they have the same unrealistic Barbie body, but each doll’s skin color is a different shade and their faces look different. I can’t remember how many there were… maybe 3 or 4? And they came with ‘little sister’ dolls.

12 Melanie (Modern Mami) October 16, 2009 at 11:16 pm

@Mariana, I agree that they need improvement, but still a step. They do come with the little sister according to video, but I haven’t found them in stores yet.

13 Kim hays October 18, 2009 at 3:39 am

I’m not a barbie fan in general. the dolls don’t look like any human woman I know.

14 Melanie (Modern Mami) October 20, 2009 at 9:52 pm

@Kim hays, That is so true. It’s just hard to keep them away from little girls.

15 Just Jennifer October 19, 2009 at 6:53 am

This was a great post 😀

16 Melanie (Modern Mami) October 20, 2009 at 9:53 pm

@Just Jennifer, Thanks so much! It’s great to hear that.

17 northierthanthou June 1, 2013 at 5:34 pm

strange to see Columbus still on the table. It seems each generation goes after that symbol with slightly different variations. Old myths die hard, even when virtually everyone knows better.

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