The toy company created the new Olympic-inspired Barbies in collaboration with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Tokyo 2020 organisers, according to CNN, which notes that the new line was unveiled in February and features five dolls that each reflect one of the five new sports added to the Games.
“Tokyo 2020 is a monumental event that brings the world together through sport and inspires fans of all ages,” Janet Hsu, chief franchise officer of Mattel, said in a press release at the time. “The Mattel Tokyo 2020 Collection honours these sports and inspires a new generation through the Olympic spirit and outstanding athletic tradition.”
However, on social media, many expressed their dismay over the company’s choice to omit an Asian doll from the new Olympic line-up, especially as the Games were held in Tokyo.
“Mattel forgetting to make an Asian Barbie for the TOKYO OLYMPICS collection is insane,” one person tweeted.
Another said: “Very disappointed with @Barbie I was so excited to buy an Asian Barbie Doll that represents an Olympic sport, but there’s literally no Asian representation in the limited edition range for Tokyo 2020… #fireyourdesigner.”
“Two blondes but zero Asian dolls when the Olympics are in TOKYO?” someone else tweeted at Mattel.
Others pointed out that the omission is especially poignant because it occurred despite one of the dolls wearing a karate uniform, and after the company expressed its dedication to highlighting “inclusivity”.
The lack of representation also prompted criticism in light of the success of many Asian Olympians, including Hmong-American gold-medal winning gymnast Sunisa Lee.
“Mattel highlights an Asian country, a Barbie wearing a Japanese karate uniform, and their support of empowerment and diversity and inclusion - while rendering Asian Americans invisible,” another person tweeted. “Even as Sunisa Lee, an Asian American, becomes the breakout star of the Olympics.”
In a statement to The Independent, Mattel said its intention to represent the Asian community “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. 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 recognise the feedback,” a spokesperson for the company said. “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.”
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