There is a constant struggle over what the media projects as beautiful. It’s an important conversation to be had because it profoundly affects how people see themselves.
People with disabilities are grossly underrepresented in the media. When they are, however, the disability is often used for shock value or to propagate a stereotype. In the past, disability and beauty have been mutually exclusive: you can have one, but not the other.
There have been some major changes in this perspective, in regards to the media. But I’d like to focus on a novel approach.
Ellie is a doll modeled after a composite of the faces of several children with Downs Syndrome.
Made by DollsForDowns.org, Ellie was dreamed up by a mother of a girl with Downs who was frustrated that none of the dolls she could find looked like her. An occupational therapist consulted on the design, and they have incorporated buttons, zippers, snaps, etc to develop fine motor skills. They can also come with optional accessories such as leg and arm braces.
For over a year and a half this doll has been in the making and you can now pre-order your own (planned launch is May 1). But this doll is already making the news.
The issue of dolls that don’t resemble children is long standing. Barbie started making ethic friends to account for this.
Barbie (1959) Christie (1968) Dana (1987)
But the fact of the matter is, Barbie and all her friends don’t match the proportions of any human being ( I’m going out on a limb here–putting her more famous features aside–I’m guessing no healthy woman is 5’9” with size 3 feet) when made in life-size proportions.These unrealistic proportions might have paved the way for other dolls, such as Bratz.
I don’t fit Barbie’s proportions, hair or skin color, but I still played with her.
To my knowledge, Dolls For Downs is the first company to make dolls to resemble features other than ethnicity. If I had a child with Downs that wanted one of those dolls because they related to it, I’d be only too happy to get it for them.
But…not being in that situation, I have mixed feelings. So many people with disabilities work so hard to be viewed as beautiful and valued members of society–just like everyone else. I know I wouldn’t appreciate my disability rubbed in my face in this way. Lets face it, really, no one looks exactly like their doll. We are all different and unique. We make friends that don’t look like us.
So I can’t decide if this is mildly offensive. But maybe I’m just jealous that they didn’t make a doll with my disability.
I need your help deciding. What do you think? Cool idea or mixed feelings?
It might be a little controversial, which is perfect for our newest weekly series: Controversy Humpday. Wednesdays will intentionally have thought-provoking stories and everyone can voice their opinions. Go ahead, leave a comment.