The creators of perhaps the most iconic doll in the world have released a new range of gender-neutral dolls in an aim to appeal to younger consumers, who are increasingly looking for toys that are not explicitly aimed at either boys or girls.
Mattel’s Creatable World dolls come in six different skin tones and do not have any discernable gender identifiers, with the dolls’ facial features also deliberately not meant to reveal gender.
With eyelashes that aren’t too fluttery or long, lips that are not too full and the absence of breasts or a so-called “boy bump”, the prepubescent bodies of Creatable World dolls should be relatable to all children of preteen age, and can be dressed up in a range of outfits. Each doll comes with a short hairstyle, with a long-haired wig that can be added or taken away also included.
While some clothes are more masculine-presenting and some are more feminine-presenting, most pieces of clothing are gender-neutral by nature, and they can be combined in whichever way a child wants to.
Mattel explains their decision to start marketing the gender-neutral dolls “in order to respond to what consumers told us they wanted from dolls in the future”, and calls the Creatable World range “a doll line designed to keep labels out and invite everyone in”.
According to an article about the range in TIME magazine, this is in line with a recent poll by the J. Walter Thompson marketing group, which found that 81% of Gen Z-ers believe that a person should not be defined by gender. This generation is leading the way towards inclusivity – a notion that became clear when this group responded to the New York Times’ request to pick a name for itself by opting for “Don’t call us anything”.
Non-binary and trans identities are now more at the forefront of the conversation than they’ve ever been before, but some conservative religious groups have voiced their anger about Mattel’s new range.
One Million Moms said that the company “is confusing our innocent children by attempting to destroy very definitive gender lines. Why can’t the toy manufacturer let kids be who God created them to be instead of glamorizing a sinful lifestyle?”
Mattel’s venture into gender-neutral toys is brave, considering the undeniably female nature of their most popular toy, Barbie, but also makes sense in a world where strict labelling is increasingly being rejected in favour of greater inclusivity. Ultimately, this is much more than a doll.
Speaking to TIME, Mattel’s head of consumer insights, Monica Dreger, said Mattel’s research for the Creatable World range made it clear that there was definitely a need for a toy that appeals to everyone.
“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.”