Paoli Girl Petitions American Girl To Release a Doll with a Disability

Melissa Shang, 10, says "disabled girls are American girls too."

Melissa Shang wants American Girl to name a doll with a disability as its 2015 "Girl of the Year." Credit: YouTube
Melissa Shang wants American Girl to name a doll with a disability as its 2015 "Girl of the Year." Credit: YouTube

Melissa Shang loves American Girl dolls, but she doesn't see herself in them. 

That's why the 10-year-old Paoli resident is petitioning the American Girl brand to name a doll with a disability as its 2015 "Girl of the Year" because "disabled girls are American girls too," she says, the Huffington Post reports

Shang launched a petition on Change.org, titled "American Girl: Release an American Girl with a disability." She has Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, which damages the peripheral nerves, causing muscle weakness and decreased muscle size, according to the Mayo Clinic. She uses a wheelchair.

Shang has been a fan of the American Girl dolls since she was 7 years old, according to the Huffington Post. Her favorites are the "Girl of the Year" dolls, a special edition character that highlights an overarching theme for the year with a back story focusing on a modern-day issue. In the past, these dolls have promoted issues like community service and anti-bullying efforts.

But a doll with a disability has not yet been added to that list.

Melissa's petition states:

"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."

American Girl, a subsidiary of Mattel, has made strides in bringing diversity to its products, the Huffington Post reports. Besides selling dolls with a variety of racial, ethnic and religious back stories, last year it introduced bald dolls to represent girls experiencing hair loss, and it began offering "Special Sparkle" accessories like a hearing aid and a guide dog.

“We have a long history of speaking to diversity and making girls feel good about themselves, and this is just another way we are expanding on the idea,” spokeswoman Julie Parks said at the time, according to ABC News

As of Monday evening, Melissa's petition had received nearly 4,500 signatures, about half its goal. 

Elaine Matt December 30, 2013 at 08:31 PM
Kudos to Melissa! (where can I find the petition so I can sign it????)
Collene Kennedy December 31, 2013 at 08:59 AM
What a fabulous, smart, charming and compassionate young girl! I'm emailing American Girl today! Whether they make a decision with their hearts or brains, this would likely be a smart and profitable American Girl category and this darling little girl should be rewarded for creating awareness.
Tim Zatzariny Jr. (Editor) January 01, 2014 at 10:16 AM
Elaine: Follow the link in the story to the petition. Click on "American Girl: Release an American Girl with a disability," which is highlighted in blue.
Thomas Butler January 01, 2014 at 01:23 PM
American Civics Lesson c. 2014: political life now consists of little more than the pleas of weak individuals to be included in the marketing schemes of large corporations, and the "pursuit of happiness" means simply being pandered to by said corporations on a level "equal" to everyone else. If only this sort of pathology were restricted to places like the Mainline; but this is what our whole country has become: not self-governing citizens of a free society, but clients begging favors of a gigantic order that we can influence only to the extent that our suffering can be commercialized. Happy New Year, Everyone!


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