Barbie Goes Bald and It’s Not So Beautiful

From Bald and Beautiful Facebook Campaign

By Pia Guerrero, Co-Founder/Editor

A couple weeks ago I re-posted, via a friend, a similar statement to the one below on the Adios Barbie Facebook page:

 “Mattel should make a Barbie with no hair so that every little girl fighting cancer feels beautiful!! The wish for this petition is that the Barbie is also named Hope and a portion of proceeds from the sales of this Barbie go to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.”

While many people liked the post, a couple disagreed with its sentiments stating that a bald Barbie would still send a damaging message to girls around their body image. I agree 100% with that line of thinking and also believe a bald barbie bought/given to girls with cancer would be much better than buying/giving them a Barbie doll with long blond hair. I’d also support any effort that pushed for the profits from Barbie sales to go to children’s charities.

It turns out the statement circulating Facebook was inspired by the Facebook campaign “Beautiful and Bald” Barbie. Jane Bingham, the co-founder of the campaign said, “(We want girls to know) they’re not dependent on their hair for their self-worth and their beauty.” I thought that the debut of a bald barbie for that reason alone would be a step in the the right direction and should be celebrated. Then I came across the “Brave and Bald GI Joe” sister campaign of the “Beautiful and Bald Barbie” campaign. Both campaigns fall short for they reinforce the same old gender stereotypes sold to boys and girls by the same dolls with hair.  GI Joe is still used to inspire bravery in boys and Barbie, as usual, inspires beauty in girls with or without hair. Yawn.

The “Beautiful and Bald Barbie” Facebook campaign boasts over 150k followers. Feeling the mounting pressure, Mattel announced yesterday that it will indeed manufacture a bald Barbie.

Mattel posted on its Facebook wall:

We are pleased to share with our community that next year we will be producing a fashion doll, that will be a friend of Barbie, which will include wigs, hats, scarves and other fashion accessories to provide girls with a traditional fashion play experience. For those girls who choose, the wigs and head coverings can be interchanged or completely removed…We will work with our longstanding partner, the Children’s Hospital Association, to donate and distribute the dolls exclusively to children’s hospitals directly reaching girls who are most affected by hair loss. A limited number of dolls and monetary donations will also be made to CureSearch for Children’s Cancer and the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.

Mary Tyler Mom of Chicago Now astutely notes on her blog that,

Girls with cancer need a bald doll about as much as women with breast cancer needs a pink Kitchen Aid mixer.  The hard truth, and spoken with authority as the mom of a girl treated for cancer, is that girls with cancer do not need a bald Barbie.  They do not need bald Disney princesses either.  I have no doubt that there are psychosocial benefits to having a bald representation of yourself if you are a kid in the middle of cancer treatment…You know what girls with cancer need?  They need money.  They need lots and lots and oodles and oodles of dollars for the researchers working on their behalf.

On the TODAY show today (Friday), advertising expert Donny Deutsch said that Mattel “got a little slack because they didn’t put (the dolls) in the stores, but, no, they did the right thing. It’s called direct marketing, target marketing, right there where they can be used, in the hospitals. You go, Mattel.”

Absolutely gross and incredibly predictable. Let’s all pretend that this is an altruistic move by Mattel, when really its just a marketing opportunity to make the company look good, get dolls to girls who aren’t already buying Barbies and make millions in the process. This isn’t the first time marketers have whitewashed their profit motives to look charitable and it won’t be the last.

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