When Ada set out to buy a birthday present for her friend’s daughter she was surprised to see a bizarre crowd outside the large toy shop. Mostly women, a handful of men, people of all shapes and sizes, some in wheelchairs or with guide dogs. Heads turned as she tried to pass through to the shop entrance, but Ada was used to her statuesque figure turning heads.
Ada had been named after Ada Lovelace, abandoned daughter of Lord Byron, who became a brilliant mathematician and the world’s first computer expert. She had lived up to her parents’ ambition, but few people noticed her for her brains and degree in molecular science, they just saw a dumb blonde.
Ada’s mother was short and cuddly, her father was short and dark. By the time Ada was twelve she was taller than her parents and her short older brother called her ‘giraffe legs’. She wondered if she was adopted, but her parents assured her she wasn’t. Ada could hardly ask her mother if she was the result of an illicit affair and her father claimed she merely took after his Scandinavian tall blonde ancestors.
As Ada squeezed past the crowd she took in the words on the banners and boards held aloft.
We Want Real Dolls
Mattel, please portray Real Women.
Ada sighed; everyone said traditional Barbie dolls did not look like real women, but Ada looked just like a Barbie Doll, everyone at high school called her Barbie and even her mother said they would have called her Barbara if they had known how she would turn out. It was not her fault she had legs that went on forever and breasts that were not large, but looked voluptuous on her slim figure. She was just as real as any of the women in the crowd, though often she didn’t feel real. Boys and young men had always been daunted by her appearance. What she needed was a real life vey tall Ken look alike, a Ken look alike who had brains to match hers. She wondered if she should step up to defend Barbie, but all she wanted to do was get in the shop, buy a present and get home. Ada hated shopping and knew nothing about toy shops.
The shop was empty; no one else had braved the crowd and Ada assumed the staff must be hiding in the stock room.
Her friend Wanda had said ‘Don’t get her a Barbie’. When Ada had asked what she would like, Wanda laughed and said ‘A Barbie… but No dolls, No pink, get something creative, educational…’
As Ada wandered down the aisles in frustration she found herself in a pink froth of Barbie shelves, but above the pink froth was a small sign Diversity Barbie. On the top shelf, way out of children’s sight and the reach of most parents, were the diversity dolls. Glamourous Barbie perched in a wheelchair, looking ready to leap out at any moment, brown Barbies, curvaceous Barbie and then she spotted her. A smiling black Barbie with an Afro hair style and best of all, a prosthetic leg. Perfect, the doll did look uncannily like the exotic Wanda. Her friend had lost her leg in a nasty car accident as a teenager; when her daughter was tiny she thought all mothers only had one leg.
Back outside the shop the crowd had grown, Ada tried to tell them about Diverse Barbie, but they thought she had been sent out by the toy shop. As they threw insults she had an idea, it would be safer to join in. After all, there were not many dolls on the diverse shelf and few that looked like this crowd. It was easy to keep their attention as she stood head and shoulders above most of them.
‘We want Chubby Barbie… Fat Ken… Refugee Ken… Acne Barbie… Down’s Syndrome Barbie… Disabled Army Veteran Ken.’
The crowd cheered her on then added more suggestions, not all of them politically correct… Ada tried to think of more diverse variations, she was enjoying her first ever protest. Then she noticed a couple of police cars arriving.
‘Conjoined Twins Barbies’ she called out as she made a hasty retreat.
That afternoon she went round to Wanda’s house, she wanted to give the child her present and get out before the little guests started arriving for the party. The reaction wasn’t quite what she expected. Wanda frowned as the wrapping paper was torn off, then burst out laughing when her daughter ripped the box open.
‘Well Ada, now you’re not the only one who’s a Barbie!’
Alas, her little daughter burst into floods of tears.
‘But I wanted a real Barbie like Nicole’s got.’