Barbie: Bald, Presidential and Armed Part 1


Just simply saying the name stirs up a million different emotions from people. In fact you would be hard pressed to find a mother (or woman) that doesn’t have a strong opinion on the famous doll. Whether she’s fully supporting and filling her child's toy box with all things Barbie or taking a firm and vocal stand against the doll that is notoriously a young girls first introduction into the world of damaging body ideals. Not that the debate is new. My own 90-year-old grandmother was banning Barbie from her own daughters long before it was fashionable for those very same reasons. The negative effects Barbie has had on generations of young girls is well researched and documented.

That’s not to say Barbie hasn’t made some attempts at answering to some of its criticism. In 1997, Mattel introduced Share a Smile Becky, a doll in a pink wheelchair. After a 17-year-old high school student, Kjersti Johnson, with cerebral palsy, pointed out that the doll would not fit into the elevator of Barbie's $100 Dream House Mattel announced that it would redesign the house in the future to accommodate the doll.

Also in 1997 Barbie’s waist size increased and her breast sized decreased (though not by much) in an attempt to make Barbie appear more realistic. The attempt became meaningless in 2000 and 2004 when Barbie went back to her pre-1997 waist size.

Now, Barbie is taking a few more tries at pleasing those of us who have repeatedly called her out for the horrific body ideals being handed to our young girls.

First came the news of Bald Barbie (as yet to be named) the result of a Facebook campaign titled "Beautiful and Bald Barbie" initiated by Jane Bingham. Bingham is a young survivor of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, who wanted to see Mattel create a doll for kids who have lost their hair due to cancer or other medical reasons. "One of the major reasons was to reduce the stigma for women and children who have hair loss — being not’ accepted to be able to go out in public without something covering their head, whether it be a wig or a scarf or that sort of thing," Bingham says. "Their beauty and their self-worth is not dependent upon their hair."

Though at first Mattel wasn’t interested, they have since announced that the doll will be produced in 2013. Sadly though it appears the doll will only be available in the US and Canada through the Children's Hospital Association, CureSearch for Children's Cancer and the National Alopecia Areata Foundation. Bingham is fighting to get the dolls sold in stores.

On the heels of this announcement Mattel also announced the release of the 2012 "I Can Be President doll". Marie Wilson, founder of the Whitehouse Project, president of the Ms. Foundation for Women, co-creator (with Gloria Steinem) of Take Our Daughters to Work Day, and one of the most inspiring SheHeroes I’ve ever had the pleasure of interviewing has been called the “Mother of President Barbie.” But considering she has dedicated her life to inspiring girls and plans to see the actual first female President, the intentions behind President Barbie are as feminist as they come. For the plain simple fact, girls can’t be what they can’t see. “Well, it’s interesting. I initially approached Mattel to raise money. They wouldn’t give it to me so I said, ‘Maybe you should make that doll’s dream house a White House so she’ll have something to dream about. Make her the president.”

Then this week pictures of the new Katniss Everdeen doll were released. Katniss Everdeen is the lead character in the ever popular Hunger Games book series and movie. Though Mattel could have dressed Katniss in some of the high fashion gowns the character is stuck wearing in some parts of the books, they chose to keep her in her trademark jackets, pants, and armed with her bow and arrow. All key aspects to her character and how she’s dressed through the majority of the book and movie.

Some have complained because the doll has make-up. Some complain that marketing a Barbie doll after Katniss goes against the entire message of the books.

All those people making those claims, well they’re right.

But I can’t help but wonder, after reflecting on these new Barbies about a few things.

Read Part 2 here.

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