Who knew your favourite childhood doll could be woke? For the first time in the toy empire’s history, Barbie has made a hijab-wearing doll.
The inspiration came from Muslim-American Ibtihaj Muhammad. Muhammad is the first woman in history to represent America in a hijab at the Olympics. Barbie’s ‘Sheroes’ initiative features women pushing the boundaries in their fields and beyond. Muhammad’s Sheroes collab with Barbie celebrates more than just her skills as a fencing champion.
Seeing a hijab on the iconic Barbie for little Muslim girls is huge. Muslim people are a group who aren’t often represented in media unless through myths and stereotypes. Same goes for women of colour, TBH. Even when you consider the conversations surrounding the symbolism of the hijab, folks still police Muslim women and their choices. We’re so quick to project our own values onto Muslim women under the guise of ‘female empowerment’ but in doing so, completely strip them of their agency to make their own decisions – wearing a hijab included.
The Muhammad Barbie sends a message that it’s okay to choose to be who you are. The Olympian revealed her Barbie at Glamour’s Women of the Year summit in New York. Barbie’s vice-president of marketing Sejal Shah Miller said that the representation affirms and validates little Muslim girls who have never identified with Barbie dolls that look like them. ‘Ibtihaj is an inspiration to countless girls who never saw themselves represented,’ said Miller in a statement. ‘By honouring her story, we hope this doll reminds them that they can be and do anything.’
Thank you @Mattel for announcing me as the newest member of the @Barbie Shero family! The Barbie Shero Program recognizes women who break boundaries to inspire the next generation of girls and I am so excited to join this incredible group of women. I’m proud to know that little girls everywhere can now play with a Barbie who chooses to wear hijab! This is a childhood dream come true 😭💘 #shero
Witnessing a black, Muslim woman who not only kicks ass as an Olympic champion but who’s also being celebrated for her identity in mainstream media is magic. The 31-year-old pioneer wrote in an Instagram post that seeing Barbie wearing a hijab is a ‘childhood dream come true’. In an interview with People, Muhammad said, ‘I think it’s revolutionary for Barbie to take a stand in this moment that we’re in – and I would say, as a country, to have a doll wear a hijab and be the first of its kind.’
But the Ibtihaj Barbie describes more than just representation – it’s necessary inclusivity among a culture (especially in the US) that encourages Islamophobia. Muhammad is beyond excited for little girls to get a chance to feel included but to ‘also have kids who aren’t Muslim, who don’t wear a hijab, to also have the opportunity to play with a doll that wears a hijab.’
As an extension of the ‘You Can Be Anything’ campaign, the Shero initiative lets little girls know that the sky is the limit. With the Ibtihaj Muhammad doll, Muslim girls know that reaching your dreams isn’t just for blonde-haired, blue-eyed women, but it can also include Muslim women, too.
You can get the Ibtihaj-inspired Barbie in 2018.