News & Politics

Why 'Hijab Barbie' Should Offend the Feminists Celebrating It

Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad holds a hijab-wearing "Barbie Shero" in her likeness at the 2017 Glamour Women of the Year Awards at Kings Theatre on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Barbie now has a hijab. It’s a thing.

Modeled after Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad, this new Barbie is supposed to be a major win for girls throughout the nation. Of course, as a story in the New York Post points out,  both the hijab and how Muhammad came to be a fencer are not things to celebrate:

Growing up in Maplewood, New Jersey, Muhammad wasn’t an integrated American teen: Her parents insisted she cover up at all times, even when playing on volleyball and softball teams. In 2011, she told the Wall Street Journal that she wore long clothes under all her uniforms — until her mother arrived at the perfect solution.

Driving past their high school one day, her mother saw fencers for the first time. “I don’t know what that sport is,” she told Muhammad, “but when you’re 13, you’re doing it.” Her mother loved that the fencers were completely covered up.

The same article explained that later, when Muhammad was in her mid-20s, her mother thought she should travel with a male guardian. She also bristled at sport etiquette requiring her daughter to shake hands with male referees.

Mattel includes the hijab Barbie as part of their “Shero” line. Lisa McKnight, senior VP of Barbie strategy at Mattel, told the New Yorker that the company “use[s] this line to create a halo over the brand.”

Now, let’s take a step back and ask one very important thing: Would Mattel and feminists be celebrating if Ms. Muhammed had been forced into fencing because of a Christian background?

Could you imagine a Mattel exec saying the same about a fundamentalist Christian Barbie, let alone manufacturing one? A Barbie that, according to readings of the New Testament, would be required to dress “modestly and discreetly” — hide her figure, her beauty, and defer at all times to men?

What about a Hasidic Barbie? Women in that sect must shave their hair, wear wigs and no makeup, cover up their figures and defer to men, having sex at their demand and having as many babies as possible.

Don’t get me wrong, Muhammad had to work hard to make it to the Olympics. Even in the United States where fencing doesn’t have a huge pool of competitors, it still takes skill and dedication to make it onto an Olympic stage.

That’s not what they are celebrating, though.

They are celebrating that a woman became a fencer because of a religion that will not allow a woman to leave the house, let alone compete in sports, without almost total concealment. How does this one faith get a pass while less misogynist religions are treated as backwards?

The hijab Barbie isn’t a win for women. It’s a win for oppressing women. So why aren’t liberals protesting this?