Emma Bennett, a 10-year-old girl living in Cypress, TX, has a prosthetic leg — not a feature usually represented in children's toys, on TV, or much of anywhere else. She was accordingly shocked when her mother, Courtney Fletcher Bennett, presented her with an American Girl Doll modified to have a prosthetic leg like her own.
In the video Bennett captured of her opening the doll, above, Emma exclaims, "You — you — you gotta be kidding me. It's got a leg like me!" before bursting into tears. Bennett had reached out to prosthetics company, A Step Ahead Prosthetics — which provides free aftermarket customization of American Girl dolls for girls with limb loss — to request the doll for her daughter. Along with the doll, the company sent Emma a letter that read, "After a few weeks of training to walk and run in her new prosthetic, she is ready to go home and live her life without limitations with you."
As of publication, the video of Emma unwrapping her gift has been viewed 10 million times. Her joyful reaction underscores the importance of more diverse representation of girls' and women's appearances in the marketplace and the media. As women's leadership advocate Marie Wilson put it, "You can't be what you can't see" — and the lack of characters of color, of size, with disabilities, with non-monosexual or non-cis identities, and more, leads girls to aspire to a narrow and limiting set of traits instead of affirming their identities and inspiring them to strive for personal ideals.
A Step Ahead's customized dolls call to mind the Lammily doll, a Barbie alternative with the proportions of the average 19-year-old woman and the option to add stickers depicting acne, scars, cellulite, freckles, glasses, and even grass stains. We're heartened that A Step Ahead is now celebrating the bodies and the value of girls with limb loss, and looking forward to an even broader range of toy options for a generation of young women.