Black Barbie has just declared her political party, and is likely to inspire girls to one day do the same. On Tuesday, the iconic toy line unveiled a new set of dolls aimed at exposing young people to public leadership roles and sparking their interest in the political process.
“2020 continues to be a monumental year, and as many of us are activating, from living in a pandemic and fighting for our families and communities in uncertain economic times, to dismantling racist systems and marching on the streets, we must use this as an opportunity to inspire young women and girls to lead, “Erin Loos Cutraro, founder and CEO of She should Run, tells ESSENCE.
Barbie partnered with She should Run to present The Campaign Team set, giving Barbie new careers as a candidate, campaign manager, fundraiser, and voter. Since 2006, the nonpartisan organization has encouraged and supported women from all walks of life to run for elected office. Cutraro says work is necessary to change the political landscape. While women make up 51 percent of the population, we represent only a third of the nation’s elected leaders. For black women, we only have to look until the 116th Congress to see that our representation is still missing. While 127 women serve in the most diverse Congress to date, only 22 of them are black.
Civil rights activist and lawyer Marian Wright Edelman once said: “You cannot be what you cannot see” and in that line of thought, both Cutraro and Mattel intentionally made the candidate for office a Black Barbie. “Diversity and inclusion are at the forefront of everything the Barbie brand does and we are dedicated to removing the barriers that prevent the next generation of girls from reaching their full potential,” shares Lisa McKnight, Senior Vice President and Global Director, Barbie & Dolls at Mattel. ESSENCE. “We know that women, and particularly black women, are not represented in elected office, so we present a black doll as a presidential candidate in this set of campaign equipment.”
Beyond bringing representation to the Barbie line, the brand is also careful to point out that the set shows the girls the importance of a political team working together to bring home a victory. That includes everyone, from candidate to voter, whom Barbie made Latino to encourage voter turnout among those where voter representation lags behind that of black and white voters. Amid COVID-19, black and brown communities need leaders who are ready to work on their behalf more than ever. The pandemic is expected to have a lasting impact on our youth. Cutraro says, “It is critical that we provide our girls at home with the support they need, early in life, to explore their voice and channel their energy to lead.”
The doll’s launch comes almost 50 years after Shirley Chisholm’s historic run for the White House, just after Senator Kamala Harris’s 2020 presidential bid, and a week after alleged Democratic candidate Joseph R. Biden will reveal that he is strongly considering four black women to be his vice presidential candidate. Times are changing and Barbie is convinced that her dolls reflect that. McKnight emphasizes: “We hope this set will inspire all girls of color to see themselves in leadership roles and to speak out, from the polls to the podium.”