Boxing Barbie based on British champ delivers body blow to sexist stereotypes

British boxer and Olympic gold medalist, Nicola Adams, holds a Barbie doll made in her likeness, to mark International Women’s Day – Image: Mattel

A Barbie doll in the likeness of British Olympic boxing champion, Nicola Adams, complete with “boxing gloves to shatter any glass ceiling”, has been unveiled to mark International Women’s Day.

Toymaker Mattel, whose Barbie dolls have in the past drawn criticism for promoting harmful stereotypes, said on Tuesday it hoped the Adams doll would inspire girls to achieve greatness.

The doll is among 14 new Barbies honouring “boundary-breaking women” around the world to show the next generation they can be anything they want to be, Mattel said.

Others in its “Sheroes” series include American snowboarder, Chloe Kim, who won gold at this year’s Winter Olympics, Chinese prima ballerina, Yuan Yuan Tan, and French chef, Helene Darroze.

Adams said her doll was “cool” and hoped it would inspire young girls to go for their dreams.

“Without my own role models, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” she said in a statement.

“Growing up, my biggest role models were my mum and Muhammad Ali – there were no female boxers in (the) media when I was a kid, and I might have discovered my passion sooner if I’d seen other women boxing.”

The doll features Adams’ distinctive hairstyle, and sports boxing gear emblazoned with her trademark “Lioness” nickname.

However, the doll’s body type appears to reflect Barbie’s super-slim silhouette more than Adams’ muscular physique.

The doll is not available for sale, and Mattel could not say whether it would go into production.

Several previous Sheroes, including African-American ballerina, Misty Copeland, and American fencer, Ibtihaj Muhammad – the first hijab-wearing Barbie – have gone into production.

Lisa McKnight, Barbie general manager, said in a statement that the company had chosen to honour the role models “because we know that you can’t be what you can’t see”.

“Girls have always been able to play out different roles and careers with Barbie, and we are thrilled to shine a light on real-life role models to remind them that they can be anything.”

Other dolls being launched for International Women’s Day on Thursday include a Turkish windsurfer, a German entrepreneur, and a Polish journalist.

Parents and feminists have long criticised the traditional Barbie doll, with its impossibly busty and narrow-waisted physique, for setting an unrealistic body image for girls.

Mattel released new bodytypes in 2016 – petite, tall and curvy – as well as a range of skintones.

A spokeswoman said the Adams doll had been designed in close collaboration with the boxer’s team.

Mattel also announced on Tuesday the launch of a series of historical dolls that come with educational information.

The first three ‘Inspiring Women’ are Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo, U.S. aviator, Amelia Earhart, and mathematician, Katherine Johnson, who worked on the U.S. space programme.

-Emma Batha, Thomson Reuters Foundation

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