This article appeared in the November 21, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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A Barbie for everyone? Why inclusive dolls matter.

Diane Bondareff/Mattel/AP
The Barbie Fashionistas collection, shown here at the February 2019 New York Toy Fair features a doll in a wheelchair, a doll with a prosthetic limb, and dolls with new body types and hair textures.
Eva Botkin-Kowacki
Science, environment, and technology writer

Today’s stories explore how community is rebuilt after disaster, the role of women in the impeachment hearings, where Ukraine’s allegiances may soon lie, a shift in Georgia’s environmental regulation approach, and how a new film tapped into the universal influence of Mister Rogers.

But first, Ashleigh Bentz knows what it’s like to want a doll that looks like her. As someone who uses a prosthesis, “growing up, the only way my Barbie looked like me was if I broke her leg off,” she told KSDK News. “I can’t imagine what having one (with a prosthetic leg) would have done for my self-esteem back then.”

Earlier this year, toy company Mattel debuted a Barbie doll with a prosthetic leg and another with a wheelchair. Last Friday, Ms. Bentz donated nearly 600 such dolls to a St. Louis children’s hospital. Her reasoning? To give patients a gift that would meet them where they are.

Barbie, which turned 60 this year, has long been criticized for setting unattainable beauty standards for young girls. But as more parents have sought out toys they can connect with and that support the values they want to instill in their children, Barbie has had to change.

“Our goal was to really celebrate all types of beauty,” Evelyn Mazzocco, head of the Barbie brand in 2016, told Time Magazine when the company released dolls with different body shapes. The previous year, Mattel debuted 23 ethnically diverse Barbies.

Connor Maine, a patient who received a doll from Ms. Bentz, said he’s going to give it to his sister. “It can give an idea to my sister that no one is the same and everyone is unique.”

This article appeared in the November 21, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 11/21 edition
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