How to Talk to Your Children About Diversity and Representation

littlegraythread barbie

With @barbie, you can be 💖ANYTHING💖 I chose this Barbie to recreate a costume because it reminded me of so many if my kids’ aunties who have pastel hair. It was a quick reusable DIY using removable vinyl and a fun wig I found on Amazon.

barbie fashionistas

Mattel sent us these toys for free to review.  Barbie has come a long way from the 1950s. The #Barbie #Fashionistas line is now the most diverse doll line on the market. It was not lost on me that they launched 6 new Babie Fashionistas (including a beautiful new Black Barbie with vitiligo) in time for Black History Month.

Why does that man have long hair?  Is he a girl?

long hair barbie

The following is an actual conversation that I had on the fly with my 4 year old daughter.

Her:  “Mom, look at his hair!  Wait, is this doll girl?”

Me:  “What do you think?” (ask this to gauge where their mindset is)

Her:  “No!  He’s not a girl.”

Me:  “He just has long hair.” (make observations)  

Her:  “Boys and girls can have long hair.”

Me:  “I guess we can’t ask his pronouns, since he’s a doll.” (in retrospect, I should have used the non-binary term they, but I was thinking in the moment).  “You can play however you want.  Do you want this doll to be a boy or a girl?”

I strive to raise my kids to not shy away from non-binary, LGBTQ+, or gender norms.  Especially since we are in an age where we celebrate diversity, it’s important to teach our kids how to live in a world of gray areas.  It is completely normal for kids to be curious and to ask questions.  Don’t be weird about it, answer to the best of your ability, and if you are not sure, find out together.  It is better to have these conversations in a safe space than to raise kids who shut down in situations like these.

What if my kids don’t want a Black Barbie?

vitiligo barbie

I get it.  It is human nature to gravitate towards things that are familiar or that remind you of yourself.  It sounds funny, but how you treat these dolls is a direct representation of how you treat people of the same color.  To be honest, my daughters were not immediately drawn to the Barbie with vitiligo.  I picked her up and told my daughters that I thought this one was the prettiest because she had the most unique skin.  The following aren’t specific questions and reactions that my kids had, but they are scenarios that I’d imagine would come up.  

“But Mom, that one looks weird.  Her skin is splotchy.”  No, Honey, that’s from a condition called “vitiligo”.  It means she gets to have many colors of skin and that’s something that makes her special.  SHE’S THE RAREST ONE.  (Kid’s like things that are rare, amirite?)

“I don’t like that one because it doesn’t look like me.”  Look, kid, we can’t have eleventy billion Asian dolls, okay?  And look at our friends.  Not all of them are half-Asian right?  If we only have one type of doll, or one type of friends, we’re missing out on getting to know a lot of different people’s stories.

“I do like her fanny pack.”  Yeah, me too.  She has exquisite taste in fashion.

new barbie fashionistas

If you deny your children having diverse toys, you are telling them that they don’t matter to you.  When I had the opportunity to visit @mattel headquarters, I was able to meet with some toy designers, many of them who were Asian. I told them how refreshing it was to see so many women of color on the creative team, but also asked them why we aren’t seeing as much representation in the dolls. To be frank, they simply explained that they have to produce things that the market will buy.  One simple way to teach your kids the importance of diversity is by buying these dolls.  

💖HERE’S THE THING.💖 Let your wallet speak for where your convictions lie. I was talking to Carly @lipglossandcrayons about this the other day, and she was saying how it can be difficult teaching her blonde hair blue eyed child the importance of diversity. We realized that these beautifully different Barbies are less than $8 in store. You can spend $8 showing companies like @mattel that representation is important to you. Even more so, you’re showing your kids that people of color deserve a spot in your home.

barbie fashionistas february 2020

Thank you @mattel and @barbie for starting a conversation and allowing everyone a spot at the table.  For more about me and my family, find us on instagram @littlegraythread

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