Relatable toys: An interesting find
I recently asked our resident bloggers for their opinions on this picture that I found. I was searching for relatable toys for children with disabilities… Here’s what a few of them had to say:
“I am glad that more and more dolls are becoming available that represent different looks and lifestyles etc. (even if they are all disproportionate regarding body shape!) Such as wearing glasses, having birthmarks, etc.” Michelle Youl
Jo Berry, Don’t Dis my Ability Ambassador and permanent wheelchair user’s first question was “I wonder what they call her?”…. Thankfully not Handicapped Barbie… They called her Becky, The School Photographer, a friend of Barbie.
Renee, mother of two: “What I love: that “Becky” recognises disability affects all walks of life, in this case, a young, female, blonde, blue-eyed photographer. I love that Mattel has normalised a minority group. I welcome the exposure and embrace the presence of these in the hands of young minds, in playrooms, hopefully on TV series, etc. I love that it will become both a subconscious and conscious breakdown of a huge barrier so many have faced. It is wholeheartedly a huge step forward in the advocacy for normalising those with limitations or life with adjustments, however, big or small.
There is still a part of me a little smiling through gritted teeth that the model of this ‘breaking down barriers’ is a stick-thin, perfect, beautiful young woman, and that Barbie is the ™ behind it all…. However, they are breaking their mould, and for that I am grateful. They are opening young minds and eyes to all forms of beautiful life. And this is great.
If Becky can create a sense of joy, belonging, and validation for any little girl like this- it is all worth it!”
And Jennifer’s thoughts on the doll: “What I love about this most isn’t just the fact that Becky is in a wheelchair (which I do believe in great in itself) but that it’s showing you that you can still be something and still do what you love. For Becky it is as a photographer; she is still capturing moments and doing something she enjoys doing, despite the fact that she’s doing that from a wheelchair. It shows that you don’t have to be perfect to be fabulous, but instead taking your imperfection and channelling that energy into something more positive and great.”
The Hidden Truth
What I didn’t initially tell the bloggers was this: ‘Becky’ was first created by Mattel in the 1990’s. She was not actually ‘Barbie’, but a friend of Barbie’s (God-forbid Barbie actually became disabled or was born with a disability!). Regardless, Mattel ran into some issues: Becky’s wheelchair wouldn’t fit inside their pre-existing merchandise, like Barbie’s Dream House, where she couldn’t get through the door. Sound familiar to those who use wheelchairs?
Also, apparently Becky’s hair was so long and beautiful that it would get caught in the wheels of her wheelchair! Their solution was to bring out a newer version of a Wheelchair Becky called “Share a Smile Becky” who had shorter hair – because apparently, the only solution for the hair in the wheels thing was to cut her hair length. Ever heard of a hairband/hair elastic? Or teaching a little girl or boy to plait her hair?
And then…. as soon as they arrived, wheelchair-using Becky and Share a Smile Becky disappeared. It was very strange considering there were rumours that they sold out of Share a Smile Becky in 2 weeks. Mattel has never made another wheelchair-dependent character in their range. One surmises that it’s because doing so would require changing ALL of their other products, the houses, the cars, etc. to accommodate her needs. And you know what, to them, it’s probably not worth it.
We love that they tried to bring awareness and equality into the hearts and imaginations of little people. However, we can’t help but think they fell a little short. Especially when you see this video that Renee found. Shouldn’t every little girl or boy with any disability be able to have a moment like this?
Michelle is a Senior Occupational Therapist working solely with adults with hypermobility and related conditions. Michelle is the owner of Hypermobility Connect, an online platform for people with hypermobility to connect with resources, health professionals & each other. Michelle practices OT in her private practice and provides education to health professionals relating to hypermobility conditions.