To celebrate International Women’s Day this year Barbie’s manufacturer Mattel Inc., decided to dropped their latest line of dolls they’re calling “Inspiring Women.”
The line includes tributes to the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, Amelia Earhart, NASA research mathematician Katherine Johnson and iconic Mexican artist Frida Kahlo…but not everyone is pleased with Mattel’s designer depiction of these iconic women.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Frida Kahlo’s living descendants say they did not give Mattel permission to use Frida’s likeness for the Frida Barbie. And not only that, they also say the way the celebrated artist–a communist who subverted sexist standards in the way she she chose to live–has been whitewashed by the Barbie brand is a direct insult to everything she stood for. Mattel says they worked “in close partnership with the Frida Kahlo Corporation, the owner of all rights related to the name and identity of Frida Kahlo.”
Because of this Mattel claims they have legal rights to use Kahlo’s image and have done nothing wrong even though they depicted the artist as an able bodied white woman.
Even outside of that, the doll manufacturer opted to create the doll using faint characteristic from Frida including her unibrow, floral crown set into the black braids and shaw the artist wore. They opted out of depicting her with a disability. When she was 18, the artist was in a horrific bus accident where her pelvis was crushed, forcing her to walk with a cane.
Mattel’s website says, “The Barbie Inspiring Women Frida Kahlo doll celebrates the groundbreaking achievements, heroism and long-lasting contributions Frida made in the art world and for women, Her extraordinary life and art continue to influence and inspire others to follow their dreams and paint their own realities.”
Mexican American actress Selma Hayek, who portrayed Frida Kahlo in the 2002 biopic about the artist posted on Instagram about the doll saying, “#fridakahlo never tried to be or look like anyone else. She celebrated her uniqueness. How could they turn her into a barbie?”
Mattel plans to go ahead with the production of the Frida Barbie while her family moves forward with plans to fight this. I guess it’s another day in America with corporations taking what they want if it fits the image they’re going for.