Remember when I shared that photo of the Barbie collection that Janelle and I had growing up? You know, how we’d play with them for hours on end and give them grand, sweeping adventures? Ahh, yes, those were certainly the days — shout to the ’80s and ’90s!! But you know what? I always used to wonder why none of the dolls looked like me. Where was Wheelchair Barbie, I thought??
Well, I got to celebrate a most glorious of days recently!! One of my writing goals for 2019 is to publish an op-ed on CNN every month. I’m 2/2 so far with my latest essay about Mattel’s upcoming Barbie in a wheelchair and what this means for disability representation. And, YES, this is such a big deal when it comes to the disability community. It means that children will feel seen in their favorite toys. It means that they’ll be able to identify with the toys they play with every day. It means that they’ll feel included rather than excluded.
That. Is. Monumental. My amazing friend Emily Ladau says it perfectly. Emily is a writer and disability advocate, and like me, she wished for Wheelchair Barbie when she was young…
“To see a move toward updating and expanding disability representation in Barbie’s world isn’t just fulfilling one of my childhood wishes; it’s ensuring that other kids who play with Barbie dolls will also recognize that disability is part of who people are. While I believe there’s much more work to be done for the toy industry to truly represent diversity in a meaningful way, I think including certain types of physical disabilities indicates a long overdue step in the right direction.”
Here’s an excerpt of the piece, where I was so happy to get the chance to interview some disability advocates and get their thoughts…
“Maybe with the new Barbie in a wheelchair, future generations of children with disabilities will come to embrace what makes them different instead of feeling shame. Being disabled profoundly shapes a person’s experiences. It’s an important part of one’s identity, and like Doctor Barbie or Black Barbie, it should be represented and normalized.
And for some people with disabilities, a wheelchair even plays a key role in their personal success. It’s both a powerful symbol of freedom and independence, and a tool that helps people live a full and meaningful life.
As Barbie celebrates her 60th birthday next month, my hope is that these lessons surrounding representation, inclusivity and empathy will inspire a new generation.”
You can read the full piece here and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to email me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s chat! And of course, feel free to share my essay on Facebook, Twitter or even your local refrigerator. If you share on Twitter, be sure to tag me @melissablake so we can connect! I can’t wait to hear from you! And here’s to us going home for the holidays, wherever that may be! Love you all… xoxo