Longtime toy and entertainment company Mattel recently announced that it is releasing a special-edition Barbie doll of Laverne Cox, making it the first-ever Barbie doll to honor and be inspired by a trans woman.
But since then, right-wing Brazilian congressman Otoni De Paula has shared deeply transphobic – and wildly inaccurate – remarks lashing out against the doll and Mattel itself.
De Paula’s transphobic tirade against Cox’s Barbie doll started last week when Mattel first announced the new toy.
“It’s a huge absurdity. Mattel, the company behind the making of Barbie dolls, which have been a part of the history of our children, is now releasing a Barbie with a penis,” the congressman said in his hateful message (translated from its original Portuguese), which was posted to his Instagram. “No, you didn’t hear it wrong: this Barbie doll will come with a penis. [This doll] will honor what they call a ‘trans woman.’”
“This is an imposition of the ideology of gender and gay activism over our children. Attention, fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, grandfathers, and grandmothers: do not buy any more Barbie dolls, as she is being used by gay activists to impose the ideology of gender over the minds of our children. Leave our children alone.”
De Paula then submitted a request to hold an open hearing in the House of Representatives to debate this new Barbie doll honoring Cox. As shared by human rights attorney Jeff Nascimento, the congressman’s formal request included the following language:
“I request a public hearing to debate the psychosocial implications over children in regard to the release of a Barbie doll edition containing a male sex organ. For this public hearing, I propose that invitations are sent to the president (or equivalent) of Mattel in Brazil and a member of the Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights.”
The congressman also went on to blame Mattel for “defying reality and creating an aggressive circumstance for little girls who want to play with a girl doll.”
On Wednesday, June 1 – the first day of Pride Month – De Paula’s request for an open hearing in the House of Representatives was accepted based on the aforementioned formal request. In response, there have been numerous reactions to De Paula’s actions and statements from publications and prominent figures in Brazil.
First and foremost, many have pointed out that Barbie dolls, Ken dolls, and all other variations of the toy have never contained sex organs in their designs. De Paula’s core argument that this special edition of the doll would contain any kind of sex organ is entirely inaccurate, as that has never been the case for any version of the Barbie doll in its decades-long history.
Secondly, it is also important to note that Brazil has been dealing with the third-largest inflation in the world in the past 12 months, at 11.3 percent, behind only Turkey and Argentina (as reported by G1). The economic measures taken by President Jair Bolsonaro – an ally of De Paula’s – have resulted in extremely high prices for gas, food, and other consumer goods that are significantly impacting the Brazilian population. Subsequently, many Brazilians have called out De Paula for focusing so much of his time on making inaccurate – and incredibly transphobic and problematic – remarks about a special edition of a Barbie doll while the country is struggling so much with its economy and local issues.
One last but very important piece of context is that 2022 is a presidential election year in Brazil where Bolsonaro is attempting to win his reelection, much like former president Donald Trump did in 2020. De Paula’s outlandish criticism of Cox’s Barbie doll certainly feels like a “culture wars” maneuver from a Bolsonaro ally to rile up Brazilian conservatives and distract them from all the economic and social issues that are actually plaguing Brazil for the past few years.
The Barbie Tribute Collection Laverne Cox Doll is now available for sale on Mattel.com.