By Helen Ruhlin
The newest addition to the Barbie® “Shero” collection was recently announced to be a replica of Ibtihaj Muhammad, a member of the United States fencing team and the first Muslim American woman to wear a hijab during the Olympic games. The exciting report was made public at Glamour’s “Women of the Year” event in New York on Nov 13.
Ruth Handler, co-founder of Mattel, Inc, started the well-known doll company back in 1959 after noticing her daughter’s lack of interest in traditional toys. Over the years, Barbie® has faced a multitude of criticisms due to its classic depiction of a primarily white, unrealistic female, promoting controversial body standard beliefs. Despite mixed opinions on the blonde-haired, blue-eyed face we have all come to know, Barbie® has managed to sell over 800 million dolls, raking in around one billion dollars annually. In recent years however, the multi-billion dollar company has managed to diversify its product, now selling Barbie dolls of varying shapes, colors, and sizes.
Barbie® created the “Shero” campaign in 2015 in an effort to celebrate ground-breaking women, and inspire girls everywhere. The collections initial announcement included six females, recognized for their endeavors in breaking boundaries in the modern world. Since 2015, Barbie® has added numerous impressive women such as Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas, film director Ava Duvernay, fashion icon Ashley Graham, and several more.
Ibtihaj Muhammad will now be the first Barbie doll to wear a hijab in history, and is certainly an inspirational addition to the collection. The striking fencer was born in New Jersey, to Denise and Eugene Muhammad. She grew up honoring traditional Islamic values alongside her four siblings, including the practice of proper dress for a Muslim woman.
Muhammad attended Columbia High School, in Maplewood, New Jersey, where she was introduced to fencing after encouragement from her parents to find a sport that would allow her to wear a hijab. Muhammad’s fencing career thrived throughout high school, eventually leading to a scholarship at Duke University, where she graduated with bachelor’s degrees in both International Relations and African and African-American studies.
In 2010, Muhammad joined the United States fencing team and by 2016, made it to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Unfortunately, Muhammad lost in the sixteenth round of the women’s individual saber event to Cecilia Berder, of France. Despite the saddening loss, the young fencer successfully made history by becoming the first American woman to wear a hijab at the Olympic Games and furthermore the first American-Muslim woman to receive an Olympic medal.
With an overwhelming amount of worldwide praise and support, Muhammad was over the moon at Glamour’s “Women of the Year” summit to announce the future production of the latest “Shero” doll. Glamour has held annual events honoring and empowering women making a difference around the world for the past 27years. At this year’s summit, Muhammad found herself in the spotlight with her historic debut in partnership with Barbie®. The revolutionary doll will sport a full fencing uniform and hijab, going on sale in 2018. Through their successful attempts to diversify and broaden the possibilities of the historically unrealistic doll, Mattel, Inc’s, Barbie®, certainly stands by its familiar saying, “we girls can do anything.”