Friday, January 29, 2016

Project Dawn: The New Barbie Bodies

It’s true, I am one of those moms who never let her kids have Barbies. There were many reasons for that, for example: I’d never had Barbies growing up, I’d had The Sunshine Family, and so my kids didn’t have Barbies, they had The Loving Family. Barbie really wasn’t my style, I’ve always been rather rectangular in shape, no waist to speak of, and wearing high heels has never been my thing. As a parent I rebelled against toys with tiny parts, like the shoes that fit on Barbie’s permanently disfigured feet. And yes, I didn’t want my kids growing up thinking Barbie’s body was humanly possible, because we all know it isn’t. 

Yesterday the earth shifted on its axis. My oldest child posted a link to an article about the new Barbies on facebook and tagged me in the comments. Ever skeptical, I read the article, clicked a link to read another article, clicked on a video, and there I went down the rabbit hole. 

I have a petite child, a curvy child, and one who is still growing toward being a tall child. My kids have had their hair dyed a bright variety of colors. My kids love fashion in a way I never did. What a crazy day when Barbie has dolls that represented my kids! And not just my kids, but all sorts of other kids who look nothing like my kids. I’ll admit it, I thought it was awesome. My nineteen year old daughter asked if I’d buy her her first Barbie. The idea of a doll that resembled her was cool enough that she wanted one. She felt seen and represented. 

Isn’t that what we all want, in the media, in the world around us? To feel seen and represented? 

As it happens, yesterday, I also came across an article about Lego unveiling a figure that uses a wheelchair. I was reminded of how important it is for children to see themselves represented in the world around them, and that includes in the toys they play with. 

If a child who uses a wheelchair has a toy that represents them, it enables them to express and explore their life experience through play. It also helps them feel seen and validated. If a child has a friend, or sibling, who uses a wheelchair having a toy that represents their friend is also meaningful. 

Children want to look at a toy be able to say "It's just like me!" The "it's just like me!" feeling is particularly important to kids who rarely see themselves represented in the media or in available toys. And, as it turns out, there is an organization, Toy Like Me, that is working toward a better cultural representation of disabled kids world wide. 

You may not be a fan of Barbie, and you may hate stepping on Legos when you walk across a room in the dark, but I hope you’ll join me in celebrating the fact that more kids are seeing themselves represented in the world, even as we work toward expanding the options so that every child can have a toy that brings a smile to their face as they say, “It’s just like me!”

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