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Mattel’s new gender-neutral doll line shows that ‘all kids can benefit from doll play’


Gender is so last season’s toy.

Mattel is embracing the gender-fluid world with the release of a customizable doll line that gives kids the freedom to experiment with different hair, clothes, accessories and, why not, gender.

Unveiled globally on Wednesday, Creatable World is a line of dolls “designed to keep labels out and invite everyone in,” a press release states. It “lets toys be toys, so kids can just be kids.”

“Toys are a reflection of culture, and as the world continues to celebrate the positive impact of inclusivity, we felt it was time to create a doll line free of labels,” Kim Culmone, the senior vice president of Mattel fashion doll design, said in a statement.

Mattel, the iconic American toymaker, known for culture-shaping brands such as Barbie, Hot Wheels, Masters of the Universe and American Girl, worked alongside a team of experts, parents, physicians, as well as their main consumer — children — to create the label-free doll.

Reaction was quick to populate social media feeds, with meme-filled passionate opinions on social media; both positive and negative.

Comments such as “disgusting,” ”disturbing,” “ridiculous,” and “so sick of this crap” were readily available.

But many were celebratory.

“When I was younger, I hated the hyper femininity AND masculinity of most dolls, so I never liked to play with them,” Twitter user Kary D wrote. “Though I do not consider myself transgender I have had my own extreme struggles with gender expression. Having dolls like this could’ve saved me a lot of heartache.”

Jess Weiner, a cultural consultant for large companies, agrees. “This is a game-changer," she said. "I think that everybody will be taking note.”

Weiner, who worked as a consultant in the project, praised Mattel’s initiative. “We have hit a moment in time with a product of its time for children who are deeply in need of this kind of self-expression, without rules, without labels.”

The Creatable World doll line comes in six kits of dolls, that are available in different skin tones. They come with “two hairstyle options and endless styling possibilities.” The accessories, sold separately, include “skirt, pants or both.”

The promotional spot for the product shows a group of children playing, as the pronouns “she,” “he,” “they” appear superimposed onto the images.

One of kids is Shi’a, an 8-year-old boy who considers himself gender fluid, and whose favorite color alternates: sometimes it’s black, sometimes it’s pink.

He loves to play with dolls, but thinks that the ones owned by his younger sister are “girly, princess stuff,” as Time reported. Shi’a screamed with joy when he opened the box of the Creatable World doll, who has hair “just like mine.”

“Through research, we heard that kids don’t want their toys dictated by gender norms. This line allows all kids to express themselves freely, which is why it resonates so strongly with them. We’re hopeful Creatable World will encourage people to think more broadly about how all kids can benefit from doll play,” said Culmone.

She hopes that Creatable World can help “more children to see themselves reflected in the toys they play with. When we get to see ourselves played back to us in media in culture and in toys, it’s a beautiful thing," she said. “And if more kids can see themselves in the world, that’s a powerful thing.”