Mattel’s new hijab Barbie is modeled after Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, who bravely broke stereotypes by wearing a hijab while winning a bronze in the Olympic games in Rio.
New Barbie certainly has a lot of people talking about her.
Maureen Callahan of the New York Post described Hijabi-fencer Barbie as “really, really disturbing.” Critics railed that it represents the injection of Islamist modesty culture into the American political sphere. The presence of the Islamic headscarf on an icon such as Barbie, the argument goes, normalizes and encourages Islamist misogyny under the guise of cultural acceptance.
It does nothing of the sort. Given the sorts of clothes she normally wears, it is inconceivable that the Barbie has suddenly taken on an Islamic ethos of modesty.
Nor is it, as the San Francisco Chronicle would have it “empowering for young girls.” Most of the little girls playing with Barbie will have no idea what a hijab is, nor who Ibtihaj Muhammad is. Nor are they looking to Barbie to be a role model.
Children’s play is not pegged to what the manufacturers want. I remember vividly my (rugged, chiseled) G.I. Joe delivering a solid punch to ice-skating Ken’s soft pathetic jaw, before inviting my sister’s (giggling) ice-skating Barbie into Joe’s missile-equipped sports car and driving off with her into the sunset leaving poor pink-leotarded Ken knocked out on the ground. No doubt that was not the fate Mattel intended for Ken.
No, this is a cash grab pure and simple, by a big corporation that wants to sell toys.
Is it a coincidence that hijabi-fencer Barbie has come out a little over a month before Christmas?
The target audience is liberal mothers (or fathers or gender neutral caregivers) who, in a desire to prove their multicultural credentials in Trump’s America, will now be motivated to purchase (of all things) a Barbie for their children.
And how convenient for Mattel that there is all this controversy, such rage around this toy’s existence! Hijabed Barbie has received coverage around the world in left wing, right wing, centrist and even a-political outlets. The backlash against it alone provides the left with moral justification to purchase the toy.