Dezeen Magazine

Barbie launches collection of female role models for International Women's Day

Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and Australian conservationist Bindi Irwin are among 17 historical and modern-day role models to be immortalised as Barbies, in celebration of International Women's Day.

Released by Barbie manufacturer Mattel earlier this week, the new dolls were designed in response to a study conducted by the company, which found that 81 per cent of mothers are worried about the type of role models their daughters are exposed to.

They form part of Barbie's Sheroes series, which celebrates inspirational women from around the world. The range has previously profiled Olympic athlete Ibtihaj Muhammad –the first hijab-wearing doll in the franchise – and director of award-winning film Selma, Ava DuVernay.

Barbie launches Inspiring Women collection for International Women's Day

For the newest additions, Mattel chose to feature three historical figures, Frida Kahlo, Katherine Johnson and Amelia Earhart, as well as 14 modern-day role models.

The Barbie version of Frida Kahlo, a Mexican artist and feminist activist, is outfitted in a traditional Mexican, brightly-coloured dress and is depicted with her signature monobrow.

The doll based on pioneering mathematician Katherine Johnson is equipped with a NASA badge, while Amelia Earhart – the first female aviator to fly across the Atlantic Ocean – is dressed in an aviator jacket, beige trousers and flying goggles.

Modern-day figures include Olympic snowboarder Chloe Kim, Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins, and Australian conservationist Bindi Irwin. Barbie also featured several other designers, activists, chefs, athletes, and journalists.

"As a brand that inspires the limitless potential in girls, Barbie will be honouring its largest line up of role models timed to International Women’s Day because we know that you can’t be what you can’t see,"  said Lisa McKnight, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Barbie.

"Girls have always been able to play out different roles and careers with Barbie and we are thrilled to shine a light on real-life role models to remind them that they can be anything."

Debuted in 1959, Barbie has gone through many fashionable transformations – including a dress designed by Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons and a bridal outfit designed by Carolina Herrera.

But Mattel has long faced criticism over its unrealistic depiction of women, with its thin-wasted, big-busted female dolls, and its lack of cultural diversity.

In recent years, the toy maker has introduced several new Barbie lines, in a step towards creating a more diverse range of dolls. These include the Barbie Fashionista line, released in early 2016, which featured curvy, petite and tall models. The Inspiring Women and Sheroes series aims to continue this diversification.