The argument over the new doll tied to deeper social issues
A new Barbie doll is stirring up controversy as Mattel Inc. launches its first ever hijab-wearing Barbie. The doll is a part of the brand’s “Sheroes” line (female heroes) and designed after the fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, America’s first Muslim woman to earn an Olympic medal. Soon after it was announced, a YouGov Omnibus poll found that over a third of Americans (38%) welcomed the doll as “a good thing”, while 18% of felt the doll was “a bad thing” (18%). A deeper look at the social issues surrounding the doll reveals that the two camps have stark disagreements.
Women are more likely to think positively of the doll but also to care more. Indeed, a little over four in ten women believe that the new hijab-wearing doll is “a good thing” (43%) and only one in four were “indifferent” to the new doll (25%). Men, on the other hand, were eleven percentage points less likely to say the doll was “a good thing” (32%) and over a third of them answered that they were “indifferent” about the doll at all (34%). They were also more likely than women to say that a Barbie adorning the hijab was “a bad thing” (22%).
A majority of millennials (44%) and Gen X’ers (41%) also praised the new doll but Americans over 55 were less convinced. Less than a third of those older Americans (30%) were in favor of Mattel’s new Barbie, while almost the same amount were like to say it’s “a bad thing” (25%). Most Americans over 55 were indifferent about the doll (33%).
Data from YouGov Profiles reveals that the social issues the doll hopes to champion such as feminism, sexism, and racism are contentious topics. When asked if they support companies and organizations who give preference to women in order to encourage gender equality, 62% of those who favor the new Barbie said they do support them. Of those who oppose the doll, nearly two-thirds also say they oppose companies’ efforts to address gender equality (65%).
The trend persists on the topic of feminism too. When asked if feminism was about treating women equally and not favorably, an overwhelming majority of those who said the new Barbie doll was “a good thing” agreed with the statement (88%). Of those who said the new Barbie was a bad thing, half were split on whether they agreed (45%) or disagreed (46%) with the statement on feminism. Muhammad herself said that she hopes the doll can balance the underrepresentation of women, particularly Muslim, and serve as “inspiration” for girls who don’t see themselves “represented in sports and culture”.
The two camps also can’t agree on matters of race. At least eight in ten Americans who support the doll (85%) say that it’s better for society to live inclusive of different races. Only half of those who oppose the new Barbie said the same (50%) and in fact, more than a third of Americans who say that the black, hijab-wearing Barbie is “a bad thing” believe that different races should live separately.
Read more results from this poll here
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