Do now not be rapid to celebrate the hijab-carrying Barbie


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It’s now not any secret that Mattel Inc.’s Barbie doll has carried out well, no longer easiest within the US however furthermore globally. The franchise contributed nearly 20 % to Mattel’s worldwide defective gross sales within the last quarter and was once ranked as one of the most head-selling US toy properties.

On the opposite hand, the firm has furthermore been steadily criticised for its portrayal of unrealistic magnificence requirements – its white, ultra-skinny, blue-eyed, lusciously-haired, friendly-bosomed Barbie, it’s miles argued, belies the realities of girls who must eat, labour, provide care to kids and the aged, and continue to exist intimate and public violence.

Mattel has assuredly pushed aside such criticisms. Perfect a pair of years within the past, Mattel’s lead dressmaker for Barbie mentioned that mothers are to blame for ladies’ body disorders, and no longer dolls.

On the opposite hand, in contemporary times, the firm has launched multiple new product strains, from profession, dinky, and curvy Barbie dolls to dolls which will be non-white, to assuage its critics. Earlier this month, it launched its first Barbie in hijab. Designed after Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, this doll is fragment of its « Sheroes » series. Mattel portrays this doll as serving as an « inspiration for limitless minute ladies who never saw themselves represented in sports actions and custom ».

Many Muslims and non-Muslims alike welcomed the doll as a imprint of inclusion and kind. In the phrases of Miley Cyrus, « Yay Barbie! One step closer to Equality! We HAVE to normalize diversity! »

Given the hot context of colossal-scale demonisation of Muslims through institutional insurance policies reminiscent of the « Muslim ban » and the dismantling of DACA, a Barbie in hijab (a scarf passe by many Muslim ladies who in actuality feel it’s miles fragment of their religion) looks to be a welcome respite. Per Pew Study Heart, dislike crimes towards Muslims within the US accept as true with surpassed the 2001 stage. Elegant no longer too long within the past, a schoolteacher in Virginia ripped off a young lady’s hijab, and a trainer in Tennessee posted a video of a pupil’s hijab being eliminated, with captions « aesthetic hair » and « lol all that hair quilt up ». 

The hijab-carrying Barbie or the D&G abayas are classic cases of racial capitalism


There may perchance be absolute confidence that this doll provides representational possibilities for young ladies (and even ladies) who assuredly attain no longer search for his or her likeness in dominant textual and visual cultures. And the doll, being dim, furthermore disrupts the dominance of South Asian/Arab/Brown Muslims within the context of the US.

On the opposite hand, let’s no longer be too like a flash in celebrating such strikes by for-revenue companies.

What Mattel and companies devour DKNY, Tommy Hilfiger, Nike, Dolce & Gabbana, and H&M, which accept as true with launched hijab, abaya and other products aimed at Muslim ladies, are selling is an imagined feeling of inclusivity to Muslim ladies who assuredly attain no longer trip it in their every single day lives.

This invent of tokenistic inclusion assuredly does extra damage than factual. It distracts us from enticing in deeper and more challenging conversations about meaningful social reform to scheme a extra inclusive society. As an change, it commodifies Islam and sees Muslims as but one other goal market. Extreme upright theorist Nancy Leong reads such kinds of commodification of otherness as « racial capitalism » – « the approach of deriving social and economic mark from racial identity ».

The hijab-carrying Barbie or the D&G abayas are classic cases of racial capitalism, where predominantly white establishments extract economic and social mark from Muslim identities. Muslims are no longer easiest invited to rework themselves into buyers, however, socially, such organisations can furthermore lay claim to « valuing diversity » whereas doing minute to commerce their insurance policies towards hiring/promoting/sustaining participants of the crew that they feign stutter about.

Feminist pupil Sara Ahmed observes that « diversity [is]… a invent of public relatives… a attain through which organizations place and capture goodwill. » For Mattel, particularly, it’s miles a attain to revive its struggling Barbie franchise and, with it, the firm’s falling fragment mark. As Juliana Chugg, Mattel’s chief stamp officer, famed no longer too long within the past, « Barbie is a textbook case search for around easy ideas to reinvigorate a fifty seven-three hundred and sixty five days-venerable international icon, strategically keen our funding from merchandise marketing to purposeful marketing and marketing, innovating interior the core around diversity, increasing new sources of alternate, focusing on youthful ladies within the vogue doll section and past. »

The assimilation of articles representing Muslim identity or spiritual life by for-revenue companies is, then, merely a marketing and marketing/re-branding scheme, no longer a dash told by social justice concerns. It does minute to disrupt racial hierarchies that undergird discrimination of Muslims within the first assert.

Vastly, it furthermore stabilises a particular notion of Muslim womanhood. When influential organizations purchase out the hijab as representative of Muslim ladies, these that attain no longer don the hijab salvage themselves on the defensive about their authenticity as Muslims. They attain out all guns blazing at the hijab, delegitimising ladies who in truth exhaust to wear it for multiple causes. Such strikes then scheme fissures interior Muslim ladies in addition to.

In would really like to taking on the mantle of offering inspiration to Muslim ladies, in all likelihood organisations reminiscent of Mattel ought to capture extra Muslim ladies in their ingenious and production processes. In all likelihood such engagements will allow them to no longer easiest realize the diversity of Muslim ladies globally, however furthermore to provide powerful-wanted opportunities to Muslim ladies to thrive economically and socially.

Organisations reminiscent of Mattel and D&G are no longer within the alternate of empowering Muslims/minorities, and thus their claims as such ought to be vigorously wondered. Allocating user objects of capitalist companies the energy to rework social relatives merely offers them extra energy. Their token products support them lay claim to being numerous and innovative, whereas covering the underlying systems that reproduce inequality. We must face up to such ideological strikes by companies, whose easiest agenda may perchance merely be the commodification of incompatibility to originate extra cash and promote their manufacturers.

The views expressed in this text are the creator’s maintain and build no longer necessarily replicate Al Jazeera’s editorial policy. 

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