Mattel helped define gender norms with Barbie and Ken. Now it's defying them with 'gender inclusive' dolls.

The Mattel toy company launched the Creatable World customizable doll line Wednesdy, Sept. 25, 2019. It allows children to create what the company calls "gender inclusive" dolls.

The toy aisle is catching up to the idea that not all kids want to play within the pink and blue boundaries of gender-specific playthings.

On Wednesday, Mattel launched its first line of what it calls "gender inclusive dolls," in which the figures in both form and fashion are not coded as stereotypically male or female. The dolls come with a kit that includes wigs with long and short hairstyles and clothing options like skirts, jeans, leggings and denim jackets.

The six dolls in Mattel's new "Creatable World" line also come in different skin tones. Each kit retails for $30.

"Toys are a reflection of culture and as the world continues to celebrate the positive impact of inclusivity, we felt it was time to create a doll line free of labels," Kim Culmone, senior vice president of Mattel fashion doll design said in a statement Wednesday. "Through research, we heard that kids don't want their toys dictated by gender norms. This line allows all kids to express themselves freely which is why it resonates so strongly with them. We're hopeful Creatable World will encourage people to think more broadly about how all kids can benefit from doll play."

The dolls are a departure from some of Mattel's best-known creations, such as Barbie, which in the past few decades has been criticized for idealizing a narrow view of femininity and promoting unrealistic beauty standards. Even with tweaks, like a more typical body shape and the promotion of STEM-related careers (being a fashionista and an astrophysicist are no longer mutually exclusive in Barbie's world), some of the most popular toys marketed to grade-school-age children were either adults or babies.

The Creatable World dolls, meanwhile, more closely resemble their preadolescent target market: There's no makeup, facial hair, bosoms or broad shoulders.

The company first started developing the new line two years ago, and it was tested by more than 250 families in cities around the United States - a larger than typical pool, according to Mattel.

Mattel is the first toy manufacturer of its size to create a line of dolls that aren't specifically gendered, but gender-neutral toys and kid's products are becoming an increasingly visible part of the market targeted at young consumers (or the adults who buy for them).

In 2015, Target said it would end labeling toys and bedding as specifically "girl" or "boy." Two years later, Amazon removed "boys" and "girls" from its toy search categories. (Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.) While the move to sell toys and market beyond traditional gender binaries is still growing in the United States, countries such as Sweden have had non-gendered toys and classroom setups for years.

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