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Gender-Neutral Barbie and the Progressives Who Attack Her

Believe it or not, some on the left think the crazy new toy doesn't go far enough.

Credit: Mattel/YouTube Screenshot

The holiday season is almost upon us and many people are thinking about gifts to buy for their loved ones. With this in mind, it’s important that we spare a thought for the eco-conscious feminist activists among us. They often struggle at this time of year. Fortunately, there is an abundance of advice on offer to help us all negotiate the pitfalls of the season.

Of course, the very best thing we can do for the planet this Christmas is to spend time alone wishing we had never been born. If we have to be with other people, it’s far better if we don’t indulge in buying presents—or, indeed, anything. Surely everyone has some old stuff lying around that they can “re-gift.” But does this go far enough?

Thankfully, Friends of the Earth has compiled a list of “21 eco-friendly Christmas tips,” so we have no excuse for slipping up. They include, unsurprisingly, making a donation to Friends of the Earth, along with preparing vegan meals, wrapping presents in old scarves rather than paper, and sending e-Christmas cards rather than the real thing.

But what about the children? Surely they can expect a new toy? Well, one solution might be to buy the little darlings in your life a “gender-neutral” Barbie doll. Mattel, the maker of the ever-popular figurines, announced back in September its intention to “retool” its products in order “to align with fast-advancements in representation, inclusion and diversity.”

Rather than the overtly female Barbie or super-masculine GI Joe, children lucky enough to receive a gender-neutral doll will be given the gift of a blank slate. Mattel’s latest creations show no signs of gender identification—they are six inches of androgyny that can be styled as male, female, both, or neither. Each comes with a choice of short or long hairstyle options and a selection of different outfits.

The new dolls have been welcomed by GLAAD, an LGBT advocacy group. “So many children and parents never saw themselves represented in toys and dolls, but this new line raises the bar for inclusion thanks to input from parents, physicians and children themselves,” the group tweeted. Buy your child a gender-neutral Barbie and they will be immunized against the evils of stereotypes for life.

But it seems that even this is not enough for the ultra-woke. News of Mattel’s latest product has hit Slate where it’s being slammed as “alarming.” The problem, it seems, is that the dolls are just not realistic enough: they fall “far short of actually embodying or even representing a nonbinary identity.”

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty. What’s being complained about here is that between each doll’s legs there is…nothing. A smooth, blank lump of plastic. Of course, anyone who’s ever played with Barbie or Ken as a child will remember that this was how every doll looked. But apparently the “nothingness” of this new line of dolls “is more troubling.”

It seems the only politically correct doll is one that is gender non-conforming yet also anatomically correct. The trans-man doll would need to include scars to show where breasts have been removed and more scars on the arms and legs where skin grafts have been taken to aid in the surgical construction of a penis. And of course, this carefully built penis would need to appear, in all its glory, between the doll’s legs.

It’s time for a reality check. Neither Barbie nor GI Joe have ever been anatomically correct. No real woman or man could ever achieve such a physique. This is the entire point of the toy. The dolls are fantasy figures that allow children to dream up all manner of imagined scenarios. Dolls belong in the world of make-believe; they exist for projection, aspiration, and storytelling.

Much though transgender activists may wish it were otherwise, few children aspire to scar tissues and surgically botched genitalia. For that matter, few children imagine themselves to be gender neutral when they grow up. In their made-up worlds, they are moms and dads, teachers, doctors, astronauts, and movie stars. What they are not is simply bodies.

It seems to some as if the biggest crime we can commit nowadays—bigger even than wrapping shop-bought gifts in paper—is to tell a girl she will grow up to be a woman or a boy he will grow up to be a man. Here’s an idea. How about this holiday season we take a week off from haranguing other people on how to live or how to raise their children. Instead, let’s relax and enjoy ourselves. Pass the wine, please.

Joanna Williams is the author of Women vs. Feminism: Why We All Need Liberating from the Gender Wars.

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