photo of Barbie with Down syndrome

What Do I Think About the Barbie With Down Syndrome?

What do I think about the new Barbie with Down syndrome?

I was a little skeptical at first. She isn’t wearing glasses, which most people with Down syndrome wear. Her face didn’t seem to feature the characteristics of a person with Down syndrome when I first saw her photo. And I’ve never purchased a Barbie doll for any of my children, so why would I really care about this one?

But then I learned about her necklace with three arrows that emerged from The Lucky Few. The braces on her ankles, like the ones Penny wore for years. The short stature. And I thought about just how important it is for all of us to have representations that signify our inclusion and welcome within the wider world. 

I showed Penny this new addition to the Barbie lineup, and I asked her what she thought.

She seemed pensive for a minute and then looked me in the eye.

“I have one word,” she said. “Cool.” 

Other people are mocking this Barbie. I don’t want to direct anyone’s attention to the group of middle-aged white men recording a podcast and laughing at Mattel’s recent news, so I’m not sharing a link, and I don’t suggest you take the time to look them up. Suffice it to say they seemed to think that laughing at a doll with Down syndrome would be beneficial to their ratings, which is to say there is some large audience of people who will join in the mockery.

At first, I was furious. But pretty quickly I realized that they are the ones missing out. They are missing out on laughter that comes from the place of connection instead of cutting people down, from companionship instead of mockery. I pretty quickly realized that all of us who can celebrate a wider world of dolls—and humans—with differences are the ones who can live with freedom and gratitude. Hopefully, this new Barbie doll will be one small piece of creating a world of children who become adults who don’t miss out on the joy and love and goodness available to them too.

{Go here to learn more about the intentionality that went into designing the Barbie.}

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