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What the #ToyLikeMe campaign can teach us about the body acceptance movement

By October 16, 2015 One Comment

Toys enable kids to explore and reflect on the world around them, which is why it’s so important that they identify with their dolls and action figures, but why is that so often not the case? The #ToyLikeMe social media campaign began with Rebecca Atkinson, Karen Newell, and Melissa Mostyn, three mothers from the UK who realized how rarely toymakers represented disabilities in their products.  In an effort to encourage toymakers to create more toys with disabilities, they created Facebook and Twitter pages showing pictures of their own creations of toys with disabilities.

This picture of a Tinker Bell doll with a cochlear implant went viral after it was posted to #ToyLikeMe

This picture of a Tinker Bell doll with a cochlear implant went viral after it was posted to #ToyLikeMe’s Facebook page.

These toys included accessories such as walkers and cochlear implants. These #ToyLikeMe images became extremely popular; parents from all over the world began liking and sharing them on their social media pages. A British toy-making company called Makies responded to this campaign by making custom-made dolls with disability-themed accessories such as walking canes and hearing aids.

I was personally very impressed with the success of this social media campaign to encourage body diversity in children’s toys. Here are three important takeaways from this campaign that can be of use to anyone who supports the body acceptance movement:

1)   People with disabilities can and should have a place in the body acceptance movement.

We’ve been seeing quite a few body-positive campaigns in the media in recent years. While it’s great that these campaigns show women of different body sizes and ages, it’s rare that we see people with disabilities represented. As shown by the popularity of the #ToyLikeMe campaign, people with disabilities are also fighting for representation in media and entertainment. It’s important to acknowledge and consider their unique struggles when grappling with body-image and media literacy issues.

(Watch: A video introduction to the #ToyLikeMe campaign)


2)   Social media activism can actually make a difference.

Even in this day and age, when social media is so integrated into our everyday lives, social media activism still gets a bad rap. Some people tend to dismiss social media activism as an invalid and ineffective form of activism that requires little commitment. However, as you can see from the success of the #ToyLikeMe campaign, social media is an incredibly powerful activist tool that has the potential to reach millions of people instantaneously. Makies responded to this social media campaign with the advent of their dolls with disabilities, showing that social media activism can help lead to “real-life” results.

3)   Parents are their children’s biggest allies in the body-acceptance movement.

The three mothers who began the #ToyLikeMe movement felt strongly about children seeing themselves represented in the toys they play with. They advocated for a change and have begun to see it happen. Children become aware of body image pressures at such a young age, and it’s never too early to teach them to accept and embrace all different body types.

Now you know why I’m such a huge fan of this campaign and the lessons we can learn from it.  Go forth and use these lessons to advocate for something you are truly passionate about!

Haley Bierman is a recent college graduate working in arts administration. She is extremely passionate about the arts, pop culture, and feminism. She enjoys Netflix, playing her ukulele, and hearing others’ viewpoints about the world we live in.