Mattel may be best known for Barbie — a doll that epitomizes femininity for many people — but now it's rolling out a new line of gender-neutral dolls. The $30 toys are aimed at children who "don't want their toys dictated by gender norms," the company said.
"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, senior vice president of Mattel Fashion Doll Design, said in a statement.
The Creatable World line of dolls includes six types of dolls that are also sold with a variety of skin tones. Each doll includes two hairstyle options, with short or long hair, allowing kids to style the dolls' hair how they wish. The new line was hailed by Let Toys Be Toys, a campaign to reduce gender stereotyping in children's products.
"This move by Mattel should not be underestimated," Megan Perryman of Let Toys Be Toys wrote in a blog post about the new dolls. "As a major player in the toy industry this signals something that parents have known for a while – many children love dolls."
She added, "We know that boys and girls are more alike than they are different, but it takes an inclusively-marketed toy like this to make that really apparent."
Reaction from consumers on Twitter ranged from supportive to negative, with some writing about how they wished such a doll had been available to them when they were younger. But others criticized the company for being "politically correct."
Nevertheless, researchers have found that toys targeted either to boys or girls, such as toy guns for boys and makeup kits for girls, fail to support childhood development as well as gender-neutral toys, according to the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
The dolls are available at retailers including Amazon, Target and Walmart, Mattel said.