Braille Monitor                         July 2021

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I Wanted to Walk a Mile in Those Little High-Heeled Shoes

by Danielle McCann

Danielle McCannFrom the Editor: Danielle is our director of social media, and as excited about that as I am, the thing that brings me real joy is that she is willing to write more than 280 character Twitter posts and several paragraphs on Facebook. She writes articles, and I think they are fantastic. Here is her latest offering:

When I was little, I wanted nothing more than to be a Barbie. I was obsessed with tearing open those hot pink cardboard boxes I saw in the store with those beautiful girls smiling behind the clear plastic sleeves. Brush, check; tiny plastic heels, check; incredibly gorgeous doll, check check check. In my mind, the fact that she was white, blue-eyed, super thin, and able-bodied were noted but not so much that I stopped dreaming of my own life of pink luxury.

When the “ethnic” dolls came out, my parents started buying me the one named Theresa. She had a darker skin tone, brown eyes, and brown hair. She still had Barbie’s figure, and her eyes weren’t like mine, but she was a little bit closer to looking like me; my dream was even closer at hand.

In May of this year, decades after I put my Barbie fantasies on the shelf, Mattel released the Helen Keller Barbie, and I got a little bit choked up when I heard. It took me a while to figure out why this doll was making me feel emotional. I texted my brother about her immediately and rambled on to my husband about my long-forgotten love for Barbie, all the while trying not to cry.

I finally realized that what was making me feel this way was my seven-year-old self, recognizing herself in the Helen doll. In recent years, Mattel made a concerted effort to change the body shape of its flagship toy. In addition to “Classic” Barbie, there are now dolls who are shorter, taller, and curvier, like me. They have also made efforts to construct facial features that represent different ethnicities more accurately. Knowing that there is now a doll who is disabled just feels like we’re getting somewhere, like maybe today’s generation of children who play with Barbies will have the chance to see themselves and more easily imagine themselves being able to achieve their dreams despite perceived limitations. It is my hope that Mattel and other toy manufacturers continue to be inclusive when they think of their next big idea.

As an adult, I am nostalgic for the days when all I had to worry about was finding the perfect outfit for my doll or hiding the fact that I cut her hair from my mom. Though I never got to walk a mile in Barbie’s little plastic heels, I definitely have mostly pink footwear. I guess there are some things we’re not meant to grow out of.

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