Barbie honors health care heroes, including doctors and scientists, with dolls

Mattel has added six new dolls to the Barbie world. Although Barbie has been a part of the medical profession since 1961 when the first nurse Barbie came out, these particular figures stand out in their lineup. In addition to several medical positions that have yet to be represented by the brand, each doll is modeled after actual front-line workers in the fight against COVID. This is Mattel’s way of honoring those who have put so much on the line during the pandemic. Not only are several countries represented, but so are several fields, acknowledging how many have worked together to fight this.

British vaccinologist Sarah Gilbert now has a new accolade: It’s a one-of-a-kind Barbie doll made in her image.

The Oxford University professor helped lead the development of the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine. Last month, she was given a damehood, and now, she shares her hairstyle, professional wardrobe and dark-rimmed glasses with Mattel Inc’s new doll.

Gilbert told The Guardian she first found Mattel’s recognition “very strange” but hopes it inspires other young women around the world to work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers (STEM).

“I am passionate about inspiring the next generation of girls into STEM careers and hope that children who see my Barbie will realize how vital careers in science are to help the world around us,” she said. “My wish is that my doll will show children careers they may not be aware of, like a vaccinologist.”

Gilbert is one of the six women Mattel Inc has recognized as role models in the fight against COVID-19. According to the toymaker, the five other honorees are U.S. health care workers Dr. Audrey Sue Cruz and emergency room nurse Amy O’Sullivan, Canadian doctor and advocate against systemic racism in health care Chicka Stacy Oriuwa, Brazilian biomedical researcher Dr. Jaqueline Goes de Jesus and Australian doctor and protective gown developer Kirby White.

“Barbie recognizes that all frontline workers have made tremendous sacrifices when confronting the pandemic and the challenges it heightened,” said Lisa McKnight, senior vice president and global head of Barbie and Dolls at Mattel. “To shine a light on their efforts, we are sharing their stories.”

[From NPR]

I think this is amazing. I love that it recognizes so many countries and contributions. I love that they are all women. And I love the statement each doll makes whether it is showcased on a shelf or played with by a child for inspiration. I also like the look of each figure. They did a good job to capture these women in a way that I feel like I understand a little bit about who they are. I get that it might be a bit overwhelming to have your likeness out there for a generation of children to play with. I like Prof. Dame Gilbert’s* take on her plastic mini-me, that it’s a way to show kids how many specialties are out there that are usually not discussed.

So, who are these women being portrayed? Dr. Audrey Sue Cruz is a Las Vegas physician who worked the front line in both hospital and clinical settings. She also collaborated with other Asian-American physicians to fight racial bias and created the hastag #IAmNotAVirus. Dr. Jaqueline Goes de Jesus first identified the genome sequencing of Brazil’s variant. Dr. Kirby White developed a reusable surgical gown that could be laundered after her hospital’s supply of disposable gowns ran out. Prof. Sarah Gilbert is the vaccinologist discussed above. Dr. Chika Stacy Oriuwa is a front-line physician and spoken word poet who advocates against systemic racism in health care. Amy O’Sullivan is the nurse who became ill with COVID and almost died from it after treating the first case in Brooklyn. All of these women are amazing and very deserving of their Barbie honor.

*I recognize this is not the proper order for her titles. This is me being a cheeky American for some levity, please forgive me.

Photo credit: Twitter and Instagram

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21 Responses to “Barbie honors health care heroes, including doctors and scientists, with dolls”

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  1. Lightpurple says:

    This is wonderful

    • BayTampaBay says:

      Does anyone know the name of the American-Asian WOC virologist who was the ‘”Team Leader” on the development of I believe the Moderna Vaccine? She did many-many TV appearances (MSNBC) doing all she could to get POC to take the jabs.

      I saw here on a MSNBC news show and she was awesome.

      I think she works for the CDC.

  2. Betsy says:

    I’m not in a field that will ever save lives or do anything big (currently I’m not in a paid job at all!) but I would die of joy if I were thus honored. And I didn’t even think I liked Barbie that much!

  3. BeanieBean says:

    I love the shoes! And did you see the socks on Amy O’Sullivan?!

  4. ExaustedNurse says:

    Cute… Mattel is also requiring vaccinations and masks for all employees, right? RIGHT?!?!

    And they’re donating all proceeds to global vaccine efforts? Contributing it to growing the international medical workforce? Helping educated nurses and doctors stay in their countries to combat brain-drain?

    Yup misspelled exhausted… so, so tired of this performative appreciation that gets companies good publicity and makes them richer while we’re STILL at risk every day.

    • megs283 says:

      Not sure about the vaccinations, but the press release says that “for every Barbie doctor, nurse, and paramedic doll sold at Target, it will donate $5 to the First Responders Children’s Foundation (FCRF), a charity that helps families of those who have died on the frontlines.”

      The other problems you talked about are very real and I hear you.

      • sunny says:

        I really like this idea and that they are donating funds to charity and producing more diverse dolls. We often say, if you can see it you can be it, and having these images out there will do good for a lot of kids.

        I think @exaustednurse brings up several excellent points in that post. I would probably push back against the brain drain one though because I’m not sure Mattel needs to be accountable for the geopolitical instability which often prompts educated professionals to immigrate.

      • ExhaustedNurse says:

        It’s actually $5 per dollar sold only at Target and only 8/1-8/28 (no Labor Day weekend sales), max $50,000… so one year of college for exactly one child who lost a front-line parent to Covid. Performative BS.

      • Christine says:

        Gosh, I no longer feel good about this campaign. I assumed it was a doll only sold at Target, as Target has some exclusives in the toy department, and that the $5 would be from every doll sold, indefinitely.

  5. Coji says:

    LOVE this. I think it’s important for girls to know what’s possible. Boys too I guess but I feel like nobody limits boys the same way as girls. Representation of important! I’m probably older than most of you all but my folks pushed my siblings and I into “safe” careers that didnt require a degree. I have so many regrets about making those choices.

  6. gilda says:

    Thank you, Hecate for sponsoring my first cry of the day. Absolutely lovely, will be getting these dolls.

  7. Squish says:

    These dolls are custom made according to the Barbie Twitter account, and will never be released for sale. Most little girls will never even be aware they exist, let alone play with them. This is just more performative attention-seeking by global corporations seeking to boost their public image by jumping on the bandwagon of feminist topics such as promoting women in STEM with the minimum possible risk or expense to themselves or shareholders. Does Mattel provide all employees with paid maternity/parental leave? Days off so they can get vaccinated?

    • Betsy says:

      that’s they’re just custom is depressing af. I thought they were going to be for sale!

    • Christine says:

      Yep, the bloom is definitely off this rose. Let’s see if the mainstream media bothers to pick up on it.

  8. Erika Holzhausen says:

    Whenever companies do diversity they always leave out asians. It’s not just white, black and brown. There are more colors than that. Please include red and yellow…

    • Gingerly says:

      I noticed that too. Dr Cruz is Asian American but Mattel clearly shied away from more obviously Asian role models. Not surprising as they do want these dolls to sell and there’s still significant antiAsian sentiment in the Us and globally.

  9. E.D says:

    Such a great thing to do.
    One hopes that this inspires children around the word to get into STEM fields.
    As an Australian, I loved seeing an Aussie Doctor in the mix so I can only imagine how chuffed this has made many different people around the world feel.

  10. Monica says:

    It’s a start. Keep going, Mattel.

  11. J ferber says:

    I love dolls!