My Thoughts on Mattel’s New Gender Inclusive Dolls


Mattel wants to be at the forefront of societal and cultural change rather than chasing it.


Mattel has released its new product line: "Creative World Dolls."  They are what Mattel calls "gender-inclusive." 

The dolls are not transexual or even gender-neutral. Instead, they allow a child to decide whether it is male, female, or maybe even both. Interestingly, like the children who will play with them, they don't boast adult attributes like a bosom or big shoulders. 

There is, ironically, an innocence at work here as children are not asked to pretend to be adults. These are not "fashion dolls" for acting out adult social behaviors nor are they baby dolls that are about being an adult and having a baby. They are dolls with children's bodies and they allow a child to play with a toy that reflects back to them where they are in life.

I find Mattel's decision to produce the doll to be a fascinating and brave decision. Fascinating because no company has done this before (at least not that I am aware of) and brave because it is going to be seen by some as political.

Mattel, however, has its eyes on the future and the future is right now. I, therefore, see Mattel's decision to produce a gender-inclusive doll as a long-term marketing decision targeting Gen Z children, their younger siblings (a generation yet unnamed) and Millennial Moms. Children and young parents are not as hung up about issues of gender as previous generations.

The decision to produce the doll is, therefore, not a bid for revenue (this seems very niche) but a pronouncement of values regarding inclusiveness. Mattel was late to the party in moving Barbie from a perfectly shaped blonde to a doll to which Gen Z children and their moms can relate. The new gender-neutral line signals that, under new management, Mattel wants to be at the forefront of societal and cultural change rather than chasing it.

The toy industry's leaders are getting out in front. Just last week, Hasbro announced that it was producing a Ms. Monopoly game which was designed to sensitize children and their parents to pay inequities in the workplace.

The future is right now, and both Mattel and Hasbro want to be there.


4 thoughts

  1. Richard, no matter what spin Mattel puts on these dolls, it’s still a bad message to children and to society as a whole. All we have to do as parents and as a society is to teach our children and for that matter adults to respect others, no matter what their race, religion, sex or political views–period.

  2. I found “Ms Monopoly” to be pandering and sexist. Segregating women to their own game isn’t Feminist. It’s anti-feminist. It’s saying girls and women can’t compete with boys and men. And boys and men see it as girls and women need their own game with a financial lead (females get more Monopoly cash to start) to compete on their level. This is the very last lesson I’d want my nieces to learn.
    The game is going backwards, not forward. Feminism was about getting a seat at the table with men. Now we are going back to our own table in a different room. Regular Monopoly is “for boys and men” by default because Ms Monopoly is for girls and women.
    I also found it ageist. Hasbro didn’t replace Mr Monopoly with a female peer; they replaced him with a much younger model.
    As far as dolls are concerned, I need to see them in person and understand how 6-year-old plays with them. I will say that I wrote a piece for NYPost on my thoughts on the body type Barbies a few years ago. Little girls don’t think Barbie is “perfect” as you say. They think she is pretty and has pretty hair and has an endless wardrobe. She doesn’t look like me and what did I care? Neither did my blonde baby doll or Raggedy Anne. To little girls (and a few boys) she is a doctor one day, a bride one day, a banker on day, and a teacher one day… Barbie is whomever the child wants her to be. And she (or he or they) will choose the barbie on the shelf they think has the cutest outfit. That is why she is a classic. Children’s imaginations are the most important ingredient in any toy or game. When we assume they have no imagination, it’s our fault – not theirs – and it’s not the thing that moves society forward. It’s what holds it back.

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