Mattel has released a new line of Barbie dolls in wheelchairs, just in time for gift giving season, in order to falsely present ideal body standards to impressionable disabled girls.
“She looks just like me,” squealed six-year-old Emma Zimmerman, unwrapping the doll whose waist-to-hip ratio would subconsciously affect her own body image for the next decade.
Mattel took care to scale the wheelchair exactly to fit Barbie’s frame — a frame that would cause a real person’s body to collapse in on itself entirely.
Studies have shown that representation in media is critical for kids to internalize messages that will later affect their consumer behavior within the capitalistic system.
“I remember growing up and all the other girls in my class knew exactly which parts of their bodies to feel insecure about,” said 56-year-old Madeline Winters, who lives with spina bifida. “But unlike them, I just hated myself in general and wished I had a reference for which parts I was supposed to hate.”
The slightly higher price tag has not stopped parents from buying the toys and unwittingly contributing to an endless consumerist culture that would increase their lifetime spending by thousands of dollars.
After the grand release, Mattel announced an expansion of the line to include more disabilities and ethnicities, aiming to lower the self-esteem of a wider target demographic.