Note: this is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.
When I was a kid I loved Barbie.
Oh, secretly of course, I knew loving that mainstream bit of blonde freakishness with her otherworldly proportions, built-in high heeled feet and rock-hard (nipple-less!) bosoms would not win admiration for me from my parents, but...yeah. I loved her.
In retrospect, it was more accurate to say that I wanted to be her. I had scars all over my face, remember, my hair would never grow long, I was impossibly ungainly and awkward. I had thick glasses. Hearing aids! It was pretty painful.
If you had given me a doll at that point in my life with hearing aids, I would have been horribly offended and pissed off.
I thought of that many times over the years as I see more dolls with disabilities entering the market.
While I know that I would not have wanted one – struggling as I was to fit in, have friends, be accepted, I would not have touched one of those dolls with a disability with a ten foot pole. I wanted Barbie! I wanted a doll that everyone wanted because I wanted to be included and ft in. I didn’t want a doll that looked like me; I wanted a doll that was desirable, that others wanted, that was cool.
Giving me a scar faced doll or a doll with hearing aids would have felt to me even more isolating. Like, “oh, thanks. A doll just like me, exactly what I wanted. I’ll just sit in the corner here with my different-like-me doll and play because all the other kids have Barbie, but NOT ME because I’m “special.”” *weak fist thump*
Now, if I had seen another child playing with a doll with hearing aids… a child without hearing aids playing with a doll with hearing aids? That would have blown me away. Big time. Actually, that would have meant the world to me.
Dolls with disabilities
I have gradually come to think that the best part of dolls with disabilities isn’t for the kids with disabilities so much as for everyone else. That is to say, that dolls would disabilities could have an enormous impact on the adults of tomorrow by normalizing disability for children of today. Give the dolls with hearing aids, who use wheelchairs, who have a chest scar from having had open heart surgery, give the bald dolls – the cancer survivors – and the dolls that use walking crutches, the dolls with interesting facial shapes, the dolls with Down syndrome – give those dolls to kids who don’t have that disability. Give it to the kids who don’t have a disability at all even.
Give the dolls with disabilities to kids who don’t have that disability (or any disability)
mainstream the dolls with a disability. That’s what I’m talking about. I don’t think kids with disabilities need to have a doll that looks like themselves necessarily; I think it’s more powerful for them to see another kid playing with a doll that looks like themselves. To see that a representation of themselves can be wanted and included.
When Ashton Drake contacted me about “Special Joy”, their doll with Down syndrome, I was really curious and eager to see what a doll with Down syndrome would look like. I mean, how would this work? How would you make a doll with Down syndrome and include enough features to recognize the doll as having Down syndrome but at the same time, avoid negative stereotypes?
They sent us Joy and… WHOAH.
This doll is ah.mayyyy.zinggg. She is almost disturbingly life like. The part of her that express Down syndrome are her bent pinkie, her sandalfeet. She has a single crease in her palm and her legs look as if they could be low tone – the way they fall reminds me of how Moxie’s would fall when she was a baby.
Moxie loves her. Mack loves her too.
I don’t think Moxie (or Mack) loves Joy because she recognizes that Joy has Down syndrome or that Down syndrome has any part in this, really. I think she loves Joy because Joy feels like a real baby – her limbs are fashioned from some incredibly life-like substance, her weight is perfect, she feels like a genuine human baby.
I think anyone who likes dolls – adults included – would love Joy. And like I said, I would like to see this doll, along with other dolls with disabilities, being played with and loved by people who don’t necessarily have a connection with Down syndrome. That someone with Down syndrome might at some point see a person without Down syndrome playing with a doll like Joy and feel something really warm cackle around in their heart, a fuzzy from the the delight that acceptance and inclusion bring.
With this month being Down syndrome Acceptance Month, Ashton Drake will be giving away a Special Joy here on this blog.
The doll retails for around $130 – she is thrillingly lifelike. Stunningly crafted. She’s a collector’s doll who is tough enough to handle the love that Moxie and MacQuinn wrap her in. She’s a doll that I’d encourage everyone and anyone who loves dolls to buy – or give to someone else who loves dolls. This is about a beautiful doll that was made with care and detail (and no, they did not pay me for writing this stuff! )
Entering the giveaway is easy. Just comment or answer this question: do you like dolls?!
For more info on Ashton Drake and “Special Joy” (along with way better photos of her!), please visit their site HERE.
*giveaway limited to the US unfortunately *
giveaway winner will be picked at 5am on 10/31, Lost Coast time 😉
Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.