On Wednesday, Mattel dared to gamble big by launching its first line of gender-inclusive, nonbinary dolls. The line is called “Creatable World,” and unlike Mattel’s best-known doll representative, the absurdly feminine stereotype Barbie, these dolls come in kits offering feminine- and masculine-presenting fashion elements that can be mixed and matched.
Are they the first toy company to tackle this demographic? No — but they’re the first big brand to take it on, and that indeed is huge news.
Senior vice president of Mattel Fashion Doll Design, Kim Culmone, told CNN, “We see this line as an opportunity for us to open up that dialogue around what dolls are for and who dolls are for.” She added, “And also as the world begins to celebrate the positive impact of inclusivity, we absolutely, fundamentally believed it was time to launch a doll line free of labels and free of rules for kids.”
Mattel released a press statement explaining its concept for Creatable World: The origin of the line began with a deep and increasing concern from both kids and their parents about the gender of toys. So Creatable World offers six different doll kits, retailing for close to $30 each, representing an array of skin tones. The kits include one doll each, two hairstyle options (one short, one long), and a mix of clothes.
We’re loving the first images and video clips of Creatable World — and its tagline: “a doll line designed to keep labels out and invite everyone in.”
— MATTEL (@Mattel) September 25, 2019
— MATTEL (@Mattel) September 25, 2019
Mattel describes Creatable World as a doll line that is designed “to keep labels out and invite everyone in.” https://t.co/Eew3j0GP6h
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) September 25, 2019
Unfortunately (but predictably) online reactions to the dolls have been polarized, with many complaining about the retail price, accusing Mattel of pushing “liberal agendas” onto children, and threatening to boycott the company:
If you don’t want to be a sheep, get moving & bombard #Mattel with emails, letters, + phone calls as well as social media posts. Tell them the world has gone mad & that you won’t take it anymore. The truth: Male & female. That’s how we all got here. God. .#MotherNature.
— fran delgado (@out2munchsa) September 25, 2019
They're not the only face corrupting and indoctrinating the youth of our country. There are to many count. I miss the normal down to earth country we used to have.
— Anthony (@1CayDek1) September 25, 2019
Bye-bye Barbie and Ken. Mattel has launched a line of gender-inclusive dolls that have no gendered features. @Mattel I’ll be buying my kids dolls from the dollar store because if you were in this for the right reasons you wouldn’t be charging $30 for these. #Barbie #Mattel pic.twitter.com/QWSzVbGXYl
— A Gnaw Gnome Us (@agnawgnomeus) September 25, 2019
— ƚ𝖗𝖎𝖘𝖙𝖆𝖓 ✞ (@rave_eur) September 25, 2019
At the same time, many, many others expressed great admiration for the dolls, snark for the haters, and suggestions for future inspiration:
Also, educate yourself.
— Steacy Curry 💎 (@SteacyC) September 25, 2019
— Ginny Lynn (@GinnyLynnAuthor) September 25, 2019
Because literally boomers will give more thought to dolls this week than school shootings, the environment, and how corrupt the government is. pic.twitter.com/G9LumbI4MD
— John Smith (@JS_717) September 25, 2019
But Time reported that Mattel’s not in it for the politics. Mattel President Richard Dickson told the outlet, “We’re not in the business of politics and we respect the decision any parent makes around how they raise their kids.” He continued, “Our job is to stimulate imaginations. Our toys are ultimately canvases for cultural conversation — but it’s your conversation, not ours; your opinion, not ours.”
Time also reported that Mattel tested the Creatable World dolls with 250 families from seven states. This included 15 kids who self-identified as gender-fluid, trans, or nonbinary. The testing was a solid success.
Monica Dreger, head of consumer insights at Mattel, told Time, “There were a couple of gender-creative kids who told us that they dreaded Christmas Day because they knew whatever they got under the Christmas tree, it wasn’t made for them. This is the first doll that you can find under the tree and see is for them, because it can be for anyone.”
You can find Creatable World doll kits at Amazon for $29.99.