American Girl revealed its 2014 Girl of the Year doll with the start of the new year.
The “girl,” Isabelle Palmer, lives and attends school in Washington, D.C., takes ballet classes and possesses a talent of designing costumes, according to AG’s website, www.americangirl.com. She learns that she can use her design skills to help others, and that “there’s no one else out there with your unique talents,” according to the website.
Like the Girl of the Year dolls produced by AG since 2001, and AG’s historical characters like Caroline Abbott (the 1812 girl) and Rebecca Rubin (circa 1914), there are additional clothes and accessories sold to complement the doll, and books written and a movie produced about the girl’s story.
No doubt the AG dolls bring much fun and pleasure to little girls everywhere, including my own daughter. She eagerly anticipates the AG catalogs in the mail on a periodic basis, along with waiting to find out what the Girl of the Year will be like and any other new historical characters. She also looks to see if any of the dolls are being “retired,” like Molly McIntire of 1944 and her best friend, Emily Bennett.
What if an AG doll had a disability? Would you buy one for your daughter, or would your daughter want one?
Well, a Pennsylvania girl wants AG to consider producing such a doll. According to a press release from change.org — which calls itself “The world’s platform for change” — Melissa Shang, 10, of Paoli, Chester County, said she and her sister, YingYing, 17, would like to see that idea become a reality.
Melissa has Charcot-Marie-Tooth, a form of muscular dystrophy that, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, affects about one in 2,500 people in the United States. The disease strikes the peripheral nerves outside the brain and spinal cord, and these nerves supply the muscles and sensory organs in the limbs, according to the institute.
That said, Melissa said in the press release, “Being a disabled girl is hard. Muscular dystrophy prevents me from activities like running and ice skating, and all the stuff that other girls take for granted. For once, I don’t want to be invisible or a side character that the main American Girl has to help: I want other girls to know what it’s like to be me, through a disabled American Girl’s story.”
Melissa’s full petition, along with a video of her stating her request, appears on change.org. As of this writing, her petition has garnered more than 68,000 supporters (it needs 75,000).
I talked to my daughter about Melissa’s idea, and asked her if she would consider owning such a doll. She said yes, that it is a good idea that Melissa has. Even now, if a girl wanted to personalize the fact that her doll can’t walk or hurt a leg or has braces, American Girl features a wheelchair, a “Feel-Better Kit” complete with crutches, arm splint, leg cast, ice pack and sports-injury tips for girls and a “Healthy Smile set” featuring stick-on braces, retainer, head gear and a toothbrush.
I’ve seen suggestions in cyberspace about toy makers considering dolls without hair in support of children fighting cancer as well. Now, Melissa’s suggestion.
What do you think? Would you consider buying a doll with a disability for your daughter? Would your daughter want such a doll? Feel free to share your thoughts on this subject. Either way, Melissa and her sister should be applauded for their efforts. Little girls like her want others to realize that what they face is very real, and that the idea of a doll facing those same challenges could teach a lot to others.