"Are Conservatives going to boycott Mattel?": Barbie Down Syndrome design sparks debate amid diversity push

Barbie with Down syndrome. (Photo via Mattel)
Barbie with Down syndrome. (Photo via Mattel)

In its 64-year history, American toy manufacturing company Mattel has unveiled a new, first-of-its-kind Barbie doll with Down syndrome. On April 25, the toy company released a new Barbie doll created in partnership with the National Down Syndrome Society, which dubs itself a human rights organization "for all individuals with Down syndrome."

The new doll is a part of the Barbie Fashionistas collection from Mattel, which attempts to provide children with more varied images of beauty and overcome the stigma associated with impairments.

In the past, there has been a Barbie Fashionista with an artificial leg, one with hearing aids, one with a wheelchair, and one with vitiligo - a skin disease that causes patches of skin to lose color. However, the new Barbie has sparked a debate online related to diversity and inclusivity, with one social media user saying:

Screenshot of a Twitter user remarking on the new Barbie with Down syndrome. (Image via @CNN/Twitter)
Screenshot of a Twitter user remarking on the new Barbie with Down syndrome. (Image via @CNN/Twitter)

Twitter reactions on new Barbie with Down syndrome

After Mattel's new doll with Down syndrome went viral, Twitterati was divided. Several users hailed the decision that the popular toy brand has pushed diversity and inclusivity further and has started introducing a newer range of dolls in the market. Some also mocked conservatives for "not boycotting this pro-life message."

Screenshot of a Twitter user hailing Mattel's decision to release a doll with Down syndrome. (Image via @USAToday/Twitter)
Screenshot of a Twitter user hailing Mattel's decision to release a doll with Down syndrome. (Image via @USAToday/Twitter)
Screenshot of a Twitter user hailing Mattel's decision to release a doll with Down syndrome. (Image via @PopBase/Twitter)
Screenshot of a Twitter user hailing Mattel's decision to release a doll with Down syndrome. (Image via @PopBase/Twitter)
Screenshot of a Twitter user hailing Mattel's decision to release a doll with Down syndrome. (Image via @PopBase/Twitter)
Screenshot of a Twitter user hailing Mattel's decision to release a doll with Down syndrome. (Image via @PopBase/Twitter)
Screenshot of a Twitter user hailing Mattel's decision to release a doll with Down syndrome. (Image via @FoxNews/Twitter)
Screenshot of a Twitter user hailing Mattel's decision to release a doll with Down syndrome. (Image via @FoxNews/Twitter)
Screenshot of a Twitter user hailing Mattel's decision to release a doll with Down syndrome. (Image via @@nojumper/Twitter)
Screenshot of a Twitter user hailing Mattel's decision to release a doll with Down syndrome. (Image via @@nojumper/Twitter)

Others slammed Mattel for introducing a Barbie doll that looks nothing like a person with Down syndrome. Several users pointed out that it looked like a regular version of Barbie and that the company should have used actual models to duplicate the dolls. Users also asked the company to try designing the doll again.

Screenshot of a Twitter user remarking on Mattel's design of the Down syndrome doll. (Image via @PopCrave/Twitter)
Screenshot of a Twitter user remarking on Mattel's design of the Down syndrome doll. (Image via @PopCrave/Twitter)
Screenshot of a Twitter user remarking on Mattel's design of the Down syndrome doll. (Image via @CNN/Twitter)
Screenshot of a Twitter user remarking on Mattel's design of the Down syndrome doll. (Image via @CNN/Twitter)
Screenshot of a Twitter user remarking on Mattel's design of the Down syndrome doll. (Image via @CNN/Twitter)
Screenshot of a Twitter user remarking on Mattel's design of the Down syndrome doll. (Image via @CNN/Twitter)
Screenshot of a Twitter user remarking on Mattel's design of the Down syndrome doll. (Image via @PopBase/Twitter)
Screenshot of a Twitter user remarking on Mattel's design of the Down syndrome doll. (Image via @PopBase/Twitter)
Screenshot of a Twitter user remarking on Mattel's design of the Down syndrome doll. (Image via @PopBase/Twitter)
Screenshot of a Twitter user remarking on Mattel's design of the Down syndrome doll. (Image via @PopBase/Twitter)
Screenshot of a Twitter user remarking on Mattel's design of the Down syndrome doll. (Image via @JoshLekach/Twitter)
Screenshot of a Twitter user remarking on Mattel's design of the Down syndrome doll. (Image via @JoshLekach/Twitter)
Screenshot of a Twitter user remarking on Mattel's design of the Down syndrome doll. (Image via @FoxNews/Twitter)
Screenshot of a Twitter user remarking on Mattel's design of the Down syndrome doll. (Image via @FoxNews/Twitter)

"It is a huge step forward for inclusion": NDSS President

Mattel asked Kayla McKeon, a spokeswoman for NDSS, to help them make the doll, which is shorter and has smaller features like people with Down syndrome.

While speaking about it on April 25 on Good Morning America, McKeon said she wanted the doll to show the "ability of somebody with Down syndrome."

"When I was talking to Barbie about her design, I thought it is incredible and it's definitely going to be a best-seller today. I cannot wait to see my friends and my peers have a doll that looks just like me."

Mattel said it worked closely with the National Down Syndrome Society on the new doll Fashionista's shape, traits, clothes, accessories, and packaging to ensure it accurately depicted a person with Down syndrome.

Down syndrome is a genetic condition that affects a person's ability to think and learn. It can cause mild to serious learning problems and unique facial features. In a statement, NDSS President Kandi Pickard said:

“This means so much for our community, who for the first time, can play with a Barbie doll that looks like them. This doll serves as a reminder that we should never underestimate the power of representation. It is a huge step forward for inclusion and a moment that we are celebrating.”

One can buy the doll with Down syndrome online right now. According to Mattel, it will be sold in shops this summer and fall.

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Edited by Shreya Das