Mattel has unveiled a brand new Barbie doll modelled after the the first US Olympian to compete wearing a hijab. This marks the first Barbie doll to wear a headscarf in the company's 58 year history.
Ibtihaj Muhammad won the Bronze medal for fencing at the Rio Olympics last year and while she indeed is a good role model for young women, there's something strange about a Barbie doll dedicated to a woman who hides all of her womanly features, as her religion requires her to do (in fact, according to a WSJ story on Muhammad, her parents actually sought out a sport that would allow her to be entirely covered while competing).
But let's not forget an important aspect of this particular type of doll: Barbie likes to show skin and according to an awful lot of feminists out there, there's nothing wrong with that. Even Mattel's recently revamped line of modern and very woke Barbie dolls (which includes entrepreneur Barbie, scientist Barbie, curvey Barbie, afro Barbie, girl power Barbie, blue-haired punk Barbie, along with a variety of Barbies with different skin tones) all like to show off a bit of skin as well as beautifully coiffed hair, and many fun fashion accessories. They are, in short, very girl-y.
Muhammad's Barbie is a bit different. Decked out in her fencing garb which covers her head to toe in white cloth, wearing flat athletic shoes and a hajib which conceals her hair entirely, Hajib Barbie hardly makes for a fun doll over which young girls can primp and preen.
Ibtihaj Muhammad is understandibly excited to have a Barbie in her image, telling the Daily Mail:
I think its revolutionary for Barbie to take a stand in this moment that we're in—and I would say, as a country, to have a doll wear a hijab and be the first of its kind. There has never been a Barbie doll to wear a hijab before. I'm really excited to have this moment happen in my life and also for all these little girls now who can shop for Barbie doll that may look them, may wear a hijab like they do, or like their mom does, or like a friend does. But also have kids who aren't Muslim, who don't wear a hijab, to also have the opportunity to play with a doll that wears a hijab.
Of course it’s nice for toy makers to provide consumers with variety of choices and even encourage kids to explore cultures other than their own. But one suspects this all has very little to do with the the actual people who want or purchase Barbies. This has more to do with a dinosaur of a company working hard to signal it's own virtue to an increasingly fickle and politically active consumer base and to feminists who continue to devalue traditional femininity.