American Girl Should Name A Disabled Doll "Girl of the Year", if This Young Lady Has Anything to Say About it
"Disabled girls are American girls too," says 10-year-old Melissa Shang, who's petitioning the American Girl brand to name a doll with a disability its 2015 "Girl of the Year." Shang has a form of muscular dystrophy called Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease that requires her to use a wheelchair, and she is a huge American Girl fan. "When I was seven, like most of my classmates, I fell in love with American Girl dolls," says Shang's petition. "I’ve read all of the books, seen all of the movies, and even visited the American Girl Place in New York City."
The American Girl franchise these days looks little like the one many of us remember (for the record, I was a Felicity and Samantha fan). Its stories have moved out of historical context, and its heroines no longer face war and social injustice — their obstacles include reading quizzes and problems with their BFFs. American Girl's "Girl of the Year" is an annual special edition doll and story created to highlight a modern-day issue girls face, and so far, these issues seem pretty fluffy — being a good sport, not saying yes to too many things, how "adventures can happen anywhere." But apparently they're still inspiring to girls like Shang, who writes:
Of all the American Girl dolls, my favorites are the Girl of the Years. ... Girls of the Year come from all different places, from Hawaii to New Mexico, and they help girls learn what it’s like to be someone else. Through Saige, I learned what it’s like to be an artist and horseback rider. Through McKenna, I learned what it’s like to be a gymnast. Girls of the Year have helped me understand how it feels to be someone else
Now Shang wants a story that helps explain to other girls her age what it feels like to grow up with a disability.
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.
Disabled girls might be different from normal kids on the outside. They might sit in a wheelchair like I do, or have some other difficulty that other kids don’t have. However, we are the same as other girls on the inside, with the same thoughts and feelings. American Girls are supposed to represent all the girls that make up American history, past and present. That includes disabled girls.
So far, Shang's petition to American Girl president Jean McKenzie has received more than 2,700 signatures. You can add yours at change.org.
Image: American Girl/Facebook