I want to see Barbie with a stoma – disabilities should be represented

A woman who had her bum removed and now has a stoma wants to see a Barbie doll with one too.

Holly Fleet, from London, has a chronic inflammatory bowel disease called ulcerative colitis.

The 29-year-old spent a stint in hospital and underwent a proctocolectomy – the life saving procedure that removes the rectum and colon.

READ MORE: 'I have stoma after getting bum removed and people always make rude assumption'

She now has a stoma – an opening on the wall of the abdomen that brings the bowel to the outside – where her faeces is collected to the connected bag.

Despite an estimated one in 335 people in the UK currently living with a stoma, the misconceptions around having one still exist.

That's why Holly is on a mission to change that – and with the upcoming Barbie movie due to hit screens in July, Holly has reflected on how there is a lack of representation of stoma wearers within fiction.

"I loved Barbie when I was younger," Holly exclusively told Daily Star.

"I played with my dolls until I was 11 years old and would get my mum to hide them whenever my friends came round!

"I never compared myself to the doll, but I was always in awe of how 'beautiful' they appeared to be with what I thought was the 'perfect' hair, face and body.

"I’m really excited for the upcoming Barbie film as it stars two of my favourite actors Margot and Ryan… but I would say I am a little bit apprehensive about the inclusivity.

"I know that it has different characters but I would have loved for them to included a disabled Barbie.

"It would have been such an incredible moment for young people living with visible and invisible conditions."

Holly, who is pregnant with her first child, is yet to see any fictitious characters who have a stoma.

She thinks that having more representation – whether that be in film or toy form – would have a massive impact for ostomates.

Many depictions of people with stomas are commonly older people.

And if the likes of Barbie had a stoma, Holly thinks that it would help younger people dispel any 'shame' they have around theirs.

"As far as I’m aware there are no fictional characters with a stoma," Holly noted.

"The only time I have ever seen ostomates represented is on social media or very occasionally in magazines.

"It’s very upsetting to be honest, as there’s been such an effort to create more diversity on screen and in print over recent years.

"Yet ostomates are still continuously left out of opportunities for visibility.

"Another issue is that stomas are seen as something only 'old people' have.

"While it is predominantly a device worn by those 70 plus, there are still lots of young people who need a stoma bag."

While Mattel launched their 'Barbie Fashionistas line' in 2019 featuring dolls with disabilities – with the doll with Down's Syndrome to be the latest to be added – there is no current sign for an ostomate to be featured.

In the meantime, Holly is showing that you can be young, glamorous and an ostomate to her thousands of followers on the likes of TikTok and Instagram.

She wants to show that there is nothing "gross" about it, and a stoma should be "celebrated" for what it is – a life saver.

"The impact of having a Barbie with a stoma would be enormous," Holly expressed.

"It would [show] young people that there is no shame in needing a bag.

"You can have a bag and still be beautiful, confident, stylish to and smart – these are all traits I associate with Barbie dolls."

"Having a stoma bag is stigmatised and seen by some as 'gross' because it involves 'poo'.

"However it is a life saving device that millions in the world live with and should be nothing but celebrated for that."

For more information on ulcerative colitis, you can access the official NHS website here.


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