Barbie has had another makeover and this time she is wearing a hijab. It was not long ago that Mattel gave Barbie a melodramatic transformation when they bought out and were praised for the release of the three new types of Barbie – tall, curvy and petite, with a variety of skin tones reflecting different ethnicity.
Haneefa Adam, the 24 year old Nigerian medical scientist, who recently completed a Masters in Pharmacology in the UK, has taken the social media platform Instagram by gale. When she started posting pictures of a hijab-wearing Barbie doll in December 2015. We are used to seeing Barbie in denim hot pants and skimpy tops, but with her colourful headscarves, flowing abayas and full length dresses, Hijarbie is far more covered up. Describing it as a “modest doll”. One that offers Muslim girls a relatable role model.
Haneefa Adam has stated that she was inspired to create the Hijarbie account after coming across the Barbie Style Instagram page. The reaction has been tremendously encouraging with requests from all over the world to buy the dolls. Hijarbie now has 57,900 followers on Instagram, now including dolls with colour. Regardless of the account’s popularity, Haneefa has received some negative comments from people who think that Muslim women who wear the veil are “oppressed,” a misconception that she wants to fix.
Also, the Ken doll, following in Barbie’s footsteps is undergoing a body realistic makeover to reflect a “normal body” shape, giving him a physical appearance of 19 year old man. Ken was introduced by Mattel in 1961, and quickly became a symbol of idealised masculinity for young children. However, his “perfect” body shape quickly became problematic. By creating a Ken diverse characteristics, it social discussion for men everywhere regarding the body issues they face. Furthermore, it illuminates how far too often the discourse regarding body issues it limited to women, and in turn, excludes men effected.
Playing with Barbie or Ken is just a first step into children’s exposure to the media.
With Mattel releasing these new types of Barbie dolls, it will encourage a much healthier body image for young girls and boys. Children will thus have the flexibility to choose a doll that best fits with their own body image as this was never available to children before of all races and ethnicity.
The new Barbie is a step in the right direction. Having said that, being the first step in the right direction, the development represents the further progress required to construct a more representative media for future generations. Further portrayal for all women and men is undoubtedly needed to endorse a positive and healthy self-image for young women and men in their most impressionable period of their own personal development.