Meet Mattel’s latest doll: Dressed conservatively, covered head to toe with only her hands and face visible. The fabric she wears is extra-thick, so there’s no chance of seeing skin. This Barbie wears no adornments. She also wears a hijab.
This new Barbie been spun by Mattel and the doll’s inspiration, Muslim Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, as “empowering” for young girls.
Growing up in Maplewood, New Jersey, Muhammad wasn’t an integrated American teen: Her parents insisted she cover up at all times, even when playing on volleyball and softball teams. In 2011, she told the Wall Street Journal that she wore long clothes under all her uniforms — until her mother arrived at the perfect solution.
Driving past their high school one day, her mother saw fencers for the first time. “I don’t know what that sport is,” she told Muhammad, “but when you’re 13, you’re doing it.” Her mother loved that the fencers were completely covered up.
The same article explained that later, when Muhammad was in her mid-20s, her mother thought she should travel with a male guardian. She also bristled at sport etiquette requiring her daughter to shake hands with male referees.
Mattel includes the hijab Barbie as part of their “Shero” line. Lisa McKnight, senior VP of Barbie strategy at Mattel, told the New Yorker that the company “use[s] this line to create a halo over the brand.”
Could you imagine a Mattel exec saying the same about a fundamentalist Christian Barbie, let alone manufacturing one? A Barbie that, according to readings of the New Testament, would be required to dress “modestly and discreetly” — hide her figure, her beauty, and defer at all times to men?