Step aside, Barbie. Mattel is launching its first line of gender-neutral dolls.
via Mattel

As the world slowly becomes more inclusive about gender expression, so is the toy aisle.

Last year, Mattel, the creators of the ultimate gendered toy, Barbie, did away with "boys" and "girls" toy divisions in favor of non-gendered sections such as "dolls" or "cars."

Target has also been moving away from gendered toy aisles. Last year, it announced it would phase out gender-based signage from a number of departments, including toys.

While it may appear as though manufacturers and big-box retailers taking a progressive stance, their choices are in total alignment with the market. Millennial parents have a growing interest in purchasing toys and clothing for their children that are gender-neutral.

RELATED: Mattel adds two Barbies with disabilities to its new line of dolls


via Target Corporate

"As millennial parents start families of their own, we see them reconsidering some of the more traditional elements of parenting," said Dana Macke, associate director of lifestyles and leisure at Mintel, told Market Watch. "As such, brands are trying to bridge this divide by developing toys that meet both kids' and parents' gender expectations," Macke continued.

Mattel has responded to this change in cultural and market norms by launching the Creatable World series of gender-less dolls.

via Mattel


via Mattel


via Mattel

The dolls, which cost $29.99, don't have broad shoulders like Ken or breasts like Barbie. Creatable World dolls can be played with as a boy, a girl, or neither. They're slim with androgynous faces and short hair and can be fitted with wigs and a wardrobe consisting of sneakers, graphic tees, hoodies, tutus, or camouflage pants.

RELATED: Barbie's awesome new career is a welcomed sign of the times

"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 press release.

Mattel's president Richard Dickson insists the Createable World dolls aren't a political statement.

"We're not in the business of politics, and we respect the decision any parent makes around how they raise their kids. Our job is to stimulate imaginations. Our toys are ultimately canvases for cultural conversation, but it's your conversation, not ours; your opinion, not ours," he told Time.

Creatable Dolls are a welcome addition to the toy aisle because they give children what we all need: more choice and freedom.

Children growing up today are at a wonderful advantage over older generations because they have greater freedom to express themselves however they choose and to feel comfortable and safe doing so. Mattel's new dolls give them one more way to express themselves and to better relate to those who are different.

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

Ready for the weekend? Of course, you are. Here's our weekly dose of good vibes to help you shed the stresses of the workweek and put yourself in a great frame of mind.

These 10 stories made us happy this week because they feature amazing creativity, generosity, and one super-cute fish.

1. Diver befriends a fish with the cutest smile

Hawaiian underwater photographer Yuki Nakano befriended a friendly porcupine fish and now they hang out regularly.

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