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Middle Eastern Barbie?
Burka Barbie has arrived!
Ever since 1959, Mattel Inc. have been producing Barbie dolls for the youth of America, but in 2003 NewBoy Designs, the leading competitor to Mattel's Barbie since the 1970s, steals the cake by giving girls a new outlook towards Barbie dolls. In February just in time for the Islamic holiday EID, Fulla was released. Hight and body structure are identical to Mattel's Barbie but that's where the similarities end. Fulla has mocha colored skin, black eyes, and long black hair.
Another aspect to the Fulla doll is a painted pink tank top and pants on her body to keep up modesty. Fulla is based on Middle Eastern woman and comes complete with the traditional Islamic headscarf, an overdress, and even a pink prayer rug. This single female has become a huge hit in the Middle East. Parents who were less inclined to give Barbie dolls to their daughters are now giving them Fulla instead.
Fawaz Abidin, the Fulla brand manager states "You have to create a character that parents and children will want to relate to." Abidin describes Fulla as the Barbie who "is honest, caring, loving, and respects her mother and father."
So far NewBoy has not yet made decisions on whether they will make an Islamic version of Ken or not, Barbie's former boyfriend; but there are future plans for teacher Fulla and doctor Fulla- all well respected occupations for Middle Eastern woman.
In addition to the overdress, girls can also now buy an extensive wardrobe for their new doll that is more modernized for the Egyptian market. This includes jeans and colorful head scarves worn by younger woman.
Chief manager of Toys R' Us in Cairo explains "Fulla sells better because she is closer to our Arab values- she never reveals a leg or an arm."
There is also a Malaysia Fulla wearing Malaysian garb and an Indian version of Fulla that is depicted wearing Saris and Burka's which is a dress covering the whole body with a veiled slit around the eyes. It's easy to see why the Americanized version of Barbie may pose a problem for Middle Eastern parents.
In 2002, Iran had declared Barbie banned from their toy shelves, and a year later Saudi Arabia followed stating that Barbie "is a decadence of the perverted west."
In Egypt, Jordan, and Qatar authorities state that they are also having problems with Americanized Barbie, whereases Fulla has become a huge hit due to her similar cultural values.
Yet despite the surge in sales, Americanized parents are not so thrilled. Mothers state that they do not want to give their daughters dolls of 'oppressed' woman. One of these is Barbara Kay, who stated in Canada's National Post, "There can be no parallel between these travesties of multiculterism and other 'diversity' Barbies... what's next in dolls that are 'important for girls' to play with? 'Illiterate Barbie'? 'Forced-Marriage Barbie'?"
In my personal opinion, I think Fulla is a great addition to the world of Barbie dolls. It teaches children there are different cultures out there besides the one we live in; but what do you think?
Do you think that NewBoy Designers took a horribly wrong turn in subjecting woman in the cultural garb or took a brave chance at creating something new and unique for other Middle Eastern girls out there?