Friday, September 23, 2005
Fulla : A different kind of Barbie
Barbie dolls have flown off the shelves in Middle Eastern countries. No, the dolls aren't going into the hands of eager consumers, they're being shipped back to Mattell. Barbie's Middle-Eastern counterpart, Fulla is far more popular than the glamorous Barbie.

Fulla roughly shares Barbie's size and proportions, but steps out of her shiny pink box wearing a black abaya and matching head scarf. She is named after a type of jasmine that grows in the Levant, and although she has an extensive and beautiful wardrobe (sold separately, of course), Fulla is usually displayed wearing her modest "outdoor fashion."Young girls here are obsessed with Fulla, and conservative parents who would not dream of buying Barbies for their daughters seem happy to pay for a modest doll who has her own tiny prayer rug, in pink felt. Children who want to dress like their dolls can buy a matching, girl-size prayer rug and cotton scarf set, all in pink.

Fulla is marketed just like American toys, with cartoons, games, and product tie-ins galore. However, some people don't see Fulla as the positive influence she is marketed as.

Maan Abdul Salam, a Syrian women's rights advocate, said Fulla was emblematic of a trend toward Islamic conservatism sweeping the Middle East. Though statistics are hard to come by, he said, the percentage of young Arab women who wear the hijab is far higher now than it was a decade ago, and though many girls are wearing it by choice, others are being pressured to do so.

"If this doll had come out 10 years ago, I don't think it would have been very popular," he said. "Fulla is part of this great cultural shift."

Fatima Ghayeh, who at 15 is a few years past playing with dolls herself, said she felt "sad that no one plays with Barbie anymore." But, pressed for further explanation, Ms. Ghayeh, dressed in a white hijab and ankle-length khaki coat, appeared to change her mind.

"My friends and I loved Barbie more than anything," she said. "But maybe it's good that girls have Fulla now. If the girls put scarves on their dolls when they're young, it might make it easier when their time comes. Sometimes it is difficult for girls to put on the hijab. They feel it is the end of childhood. Fulla shows girls that the hijab is a normal part of a woman's life."

But Jyza Sybai , a lanky, tomboyish Saudi 10-year-old, visiting Syria with her family for a short vacation, disagreed. "All my friends have Fulla now, but I still like Barbie the best," Jyza said. "She has blond hair and cool clothes. Every single girl in Saudi looks like Fulla, with the dark hair and the black scarf.

"What's so special about that?"

It is important to note...

Mattel markets a group of collectors' dolls that include a Moroccan Barbie and a doll called Leila, intended to represent a Muslim slave girl in an Ottoman court. In Iran, toy shops sell a veiled doll called Sara. A Michigan-based company markets a veiled doll called Razanne, selling primarily to Muslims in the United States and Britain.

What makes her more appealing than Barbie ?

"This isn't just about putting the hijab on a Barbie doll," Mr. Abidin(Fulla's brand manager) said. "You have to create a character that parents and children will want to relate to. Our advertising is full of positive messages about Fulla's character. She's honest, loving, and caring, and she respects her father and mother."

I some-what dont agree with Mr. Abidin's explanation. I mean, just because Barbie has a boyfriend and she wears western outfit doesn't mean that she is not honest, loving, caring and doesnot respect her family.

Its just a doll....let the kids enjoy.

Complete story here....

UPDATE :

Talk about hypocrisy....

'Jalila' is becoming one of the most popular female super-hero comic character in the Middle East. According to AK Comics (creator and publisher of middle-east superheros) their goal is to fill the cultural and social gap that was created over the years between the West and East, by providing essentially needed role models. Furthermore these heroes are predestined to become global ambassadors, spreading peace and good will, creating a more optimistic and positive image of the world's most turbulent and misunderstood region; The Middle East!

If you look at 'Jalila', she is wearing a low-cleavege vest and tight body-fiiting suit. Now isin't this against the Saudi culture?? But according to the sources..she is bridging the gap between West and East...from the Middle East point of view.

Well...isn't then 'Barbie' bridging the same gap...from the Western World point of view??

Know more about Middle East super-heroes, here...
posted at 9/23/2005 12:36:00 PM | comments (1) | permalink

1 comments:

  1. I've always wanted a pink prayer rug!
     — Anonymous raven, at 9/24/2005 07:04:00 PM 

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