Sunday, 16 June, 2024
In Stepanakert:   +26 °C

'This was not an oversight but blatant racism': Barbie is slammed as 'tone deaf' after releasing 'inclusive' line of Olympic dolls with no ASIAN athletes - despite Games being held in Tokyo

'This was not an oversight but blatant racism': Barbie is slammed as 'tone deaf' after releasing 'inclusive' line of Olympic dolls with no ASIAN athletes - despite Games being held in Tokyo
Wednesday, 11 August, 2021, 22:40

Barbie is facing furious criticism over the 'tone deaf' launch of its 'inclusive' Olympics collection, which features no visibly Asian athletes, despite being created in celebration of the Tokyo 2020 Games.

The toy brand and its parent company Mattel found themselves at the center of a bitter online backlash after promoting the new range on Twitter, where users were quick to accuse them of 'blatant racism'.

Within minutes of the post being shared, the Barbie account was flooded with angry responses, with many people calling the lack of Asian representation an 'epic fail' on the part of the toy giant - particularly given that this year's Olympics were held in Japan.

'Where is the Asian Barbie?! Shame on you! It's TOKYO for heavens sake,' wrote one person, while another person added: 'According to Mattel you can be anything, but ASIAN if you want to be included.

'The Olympics is literally happening in Asia. An Asian countr[y] has the most gold medals. An Asian-American won gold in one of the biggest and most popular events. Talk about tone deaf. Do much better!'

The new Olympics collection, which is part of the official Tokyo 2020 merchandise, was originally released in February last year, however Barbie began re-promoting the line when the postponed Games kicked off at the end of the last month.

As part of the 'inclusive' collection, Mattel designed five new dolls to represent the new sports that were added to the Olympics before 2020: softball, climbing, karate, skateboarding, and surfing.

'Tokyo 2020 is a monumental event that brings the world together through sport and inspires fans of all ages,' Mattel's franchise officer Janet Hsu wrote in a statement, according to CNN.

'The Mattel Tokyo 2020 Collection honors these sports and inspires a new generation through the Olympic spirit and outstanding athletic tradition.'

But while each of the $19.99 dolls was designed with a different skin tone, hair color, and body shape, many users noted almost immediately that there was a total lack of visible Asian representation in the new collection.

'So disappointing that by trying to be inclusive you exclude almost 60% of the world's population as well as that of the host country,' one Twitter user wrote in response to Barbie's promotional tweet.

'Many of the top female athletes in the Olympics are Asian. This was not an oversight, but blatant racism.'

In a statement shared with, a spokeperson for Mattel confirmed that the skateboarder doll in the collection was meant to 'represent the Asian community', however they admitted that the design 'fell short'.

'Fostering a more inclusive world is at the heart of our brand and we strive to reflect that in our Barbie product line,' the statement read.

'With our Barbie Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 dolls, we celebrate a range of athletes to inspire kids to find their athlete within. However, our intention to represent the Asian community with the Skateboarder doll fell short and we fully receive and recognize the feedback.

'Moving forward, we will work to find more ways to champion all representation and celebrate the amazing achievements of all Olympic athletes, who are showing us that anything is possible.'

Several users called attention to Hmong-American gymnast Sunisa Lee, 18, as an example of one of Team USA's most successful Asian athletes - while calling on Mattel and Barbie to hire the new all-around champion as its new spokesmodel, or at the very least, to release a doll in her honor.

'No Asian Barbie for the Olympic set?' one person questioned, be

Some even threatened to boycott the toy brand once and for all, with one mother saying: 'I won't be buying Barbie dolls for my two girls. No representation whatsoever. @Mattel needs to hire @sunisalee_ to be their spokesperson STAT.'

Another mom said that she had already been debating whether or not to let her children play with Barbies, noting that this latest scandal has 'proven to her' that Disney Princess dolls are the 'better' option.

'Major failure,' another user added. 'Where is the doll that looks Asian? Especially [given that the] Olympics 2020 is taking place in Japan which is an Asian country. @Mattel this is a disaster, whether it's accidental or intentional.'

One person came to the defense of the toy giant, insisting that there is one Asian-American doll in the collection - the brunette skateboarder.

'This is an Asian Barbie,' the user wrote, while sharing a picture of the doll.

The outcry over the Olympic Barbies comes in the wake of a controversial few years for the popular Mattel doll, which has made several attempts to diversify, including offering a range of curvier toys.

In September 2019, Mattel announced the launch of gender neutral dolls, which each come with a wardrobe of skirts and trousers, as well as switchable hairstyles, after facing increasing demand from customers for a more inclusive range.

Last year it also added a diverse range of designs, including a doll with the skin condition Vitiligo, one with a bald head, another in a wheelchair, and a Ken with ginger hair.