Some African-American parents aren't happy with Mattel and the El Segundo toy giant's “So in Style” toys, its first line of black dolls, which have the size and shape of its Barbie line. While parents of all backgrounds have debated about the anorexic shape of Barbie, some black parents say that the So in Style models have other features that are irksome.
Some are complaining that half of the available figurines have blue or green eyes, and that five of the dolls in the six-model lineup have long, fine hair, fine-textured, waist-length hair, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“I thought it was unfortunate that once again we're given a doll with hair that is so unlike the vast majority of black women,” Cheryl Nelson-Grimes, the mother of a 7-year-old girl, told the paper. “I feel very strongly that I want my daughter to love herself for who she is and not believe that using a hot comb or straightening her hair is the only way to be beautiful.”
Mattel has had a rocky road with black dolls. It's first, introduced in 1967 as a friend of Barbie, was simply a white doll painted brown. The year 1980 saw the first, official black Barbie, but she was, again, essentially white barbie with a darker tone. Then it famously battled (and won) in court over rights to the American Girl line of dolls. The black one? She's a runaway slave.
So, you're a black girl growing up with Mattel dolls as part of your socialization. You look at them and the imagery is saying you can be Tyra Banks or a former slave, but Oprah, Mary J. Blige or even Halle Barry are out of the question. No you can't.