Mattel has had a tumultuous April. The latest attack aimed at the toymaker is its release of “Mexico Barbie.” Mexico Barbie aims to teach girls “about the culture, traditions and ancestral dress of Mexico,” according to her online description. Instead she’s drumming up controversy for perpetuating stereotypes of Mexican culture.
The Mexico Barbie, which is one of several of Mattel’s “Dolls of the World,” dons ‘traditional’ Mexican garb. She is also retailed with a small Chihuahua and a passport. All attempts to salvage Mattel’s horrid history with diversity have been severed here. The inclusion of a passport and a small Chihuahua with a Mexican Barbie perpetuates stereotypical assumptions about the culture.
The doll is retailing for $29.95, but some critics are asking for its removal from the shelves.
Jason Ruiz, an American Studies professor at Notre Dame University told Good Morning America that the inclusion of the passport is insensitive to Mexican-Americans and other immigrant communities, especially as the political-immigration debate heats up.
“It is a point of contention and great sensitivity for people of Mexican origin, especially Mexican immigrants,” Ruiz explained. “Papers decide everything for immigrants from Mexico.”
To be clear, all of the dolls are sold with passports and animals. The Indian doll comes with a small monkey. However, including a passport isolates the Mexican, Indian and other “cultural” Barbies instead of promoting an inclusive America. A native-country flag would’ve been a reasonable alternative, but Mattel seems to be selling controversy this month.
The legendary brand released a statement saying:
“Each doll wears an ensemble inspired by the traditional costume and fashion of the country. … We consulted with the Mexican Embassy on the Dolls of the World Mexico Barbie, especially with respect to the selection of the Chihuahua. Our goal with the Dolls of the World Mexico Barbie, as well as the entire Dolls of the World Collection, is to celebrate cultural differences and tradition, introducing girls to the world through play.”
Some people of color disagree. Claudya Martinez, a writer for MamásLatinas, is one of them.
“I think a lot of people would like to pretend that there is no more racism and that people are not facing barriers because of their background or their culture,” she told ABC News. “If you happen to be one of the cultures who is continuously bombarded with stereotypes, it’s hard not to notice that the progress you thought had been made has been taken for granted.”
Martinez also sums up the importance of avoiding stereotypes when addressing cultural differences in a melting pot like America.
“We’re raising multicultural children in the United States; we’re all part of the cultural fabric. To reduce us to something that easy to digest in a bite just oversimplifies who we are,” she said.