Two weeks ago, US-based toy manufacturer Mattel launched a line of gender inclusive dolls. The Creatable World dolls have androgynous physical features; each kit consists of one doll, two hairstyle options (short and long) and extensive wardrobe options including sneakers, hoodies, tutus and more. In this way, a doll can be a girl, a boy, both, or neither. The dolls are available in a range of skin tones, and a kit costs USD 30.
Here’s how a small toy can have a big effect:
Message Matters. Mattel is still best known for the Barbie doll; a famously unrealistic and retrograde likeness of an adult woman. But in recent years the brand has sought to change all that: the 2016 Barbie Fashionistas line featured dolls with a range of four body types, seven skin tones and an array of outfits; a doll in a wheelchair was added earlier this year. Now these new gender neutral Creatable World dolls do even more to challenge tired gender stereotypes. It’s a welcome move from a brand with a direct line into the minds of millions of children. But any brand can ask itself: what message do we send – intentionally or otherwise – about who is centred and who is marginalised, who is included and who is excluded, and how can we change that message for the better?
NEW NORMAL. Of course, these changes at Mattel aren’t happening in a vacuum. Across the globe, many consumers are discarding tradition and embracing new beliefs on everything from family to marriage, sexuality, gender roles and more. Despite the shift towards these NEW NORMAL values, we are still far from a world in which every consumer is truly free to live the identity they desire. Brands willing to acknowledge, cater to and, crucially, empower marginalized groups will reap the rewards. So take a step back and ask: how is our thinking still based in increasingly outdated demographic assumptions about age, gender, sexuality and more. What would happen if we challenged those assumptions?