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Barbie goes bald… but don’t tell the “normal” kids.

By April 12, 2012 20 Comments

Oh, Barbie. Such a complicated relationship you have with women. More than any other doll, Barbie is considered the iconic American toy of girls in the U.S., and is most well known by her critics as not being able to stand up on her own two feet if she were a real woman. Now, she’s going bald.

Hi, I'm Barbie. As usual, I remain the pinnacle of beauty that everyone wants to emulate.

In recent years, Mattel has tried to tackle the claim that Barbie isn’t a particularly great role model by giving the doll a series of “careers” that are fairly diverse – engineer, teacher, architect, news anchor, dentist, vet – but of course, Barbie always remains looking very much same. Extremely skinny, with long flowing blonde locks, huge blue eyes decorated with sparkly makeup, and a plethora of fashions to help – of course – make her over! (Warning – I like the color pink, but the Barbie.com web site is… overwhelmingly, dauntingly pink.)

But apparently, one thing – just one, mind you – about Barbie is going to change. After a campaign launched on Facebook to make a bald Barbie received over 150,000 “likes,” Mattel agreed to make a bald Barbie. The description of the group says that the goal of a bald Barbie is to “help young girls who suffer from hair loss due to cancer treatments, alopecia, or trichotillomania,” as well as “for young girls who are having trouble coping with their mothers’ hair loss from chemo.”

I'm only normal in a hospital?

So, this is cool idea, right? Overall, I think it’s great – making a bald version of the iconic American doll to help normalize an element of cancer or other illnesses that can be really scary for little kids. Of course, it won’t be called Barbie… it will be a friend of Barbie’s.

OK, I can concede to that, I suppose. But the Facebook campaign was pushing to make bald Barbie available in stores, so anyone can buy them – something I think is a great idea, as it can be a great way to discuss with children the side effects of some illnesses in a less threatening way.

But when Mattel announced that they would be making the doll last week, they said that they would not be distributing them to toy store – they would be “selectively” distributing them through children’s hospitals. It feels a little bit like they’re trying to keep it a bit secret. One 15-year-old girl who suffers from alopecia said exactly what I was thinking – “If you’re wanting to make a Barbie doll that’s different, and you’re wanting to show kids who are different that they can be different, why not show it to normal kids so that they can accept the different kids?”

Precisely. Distributing the bald Barbies directly to children’s hospitals is a good way to get them directly and quickly to the kids that are being immediately impacted by hair loss. But it also serves to underscore the separation of these kids from children who have not lost their hair, treating them as something different, existing in a different world, instead of showing that just because you lost your hair doesn’t mean you are any less normal. I do applaud Mattel’s decision to make the doll, but I’d love it even more if anyone who wanted to could easily pick one up!

Larkin

20 Comments

  • Donna says:

    You are not being realistic about your critique. Unfortunately – most people WON’T buy a bald barbie doll for their kids. Because they don’t have $15 to teach their kids a lesson about Cancer or anything else. If they are going to spend their money for a doll for their kid – they’ll want it to be one they can play with – and the reality is kids biggest play pattern with dolls is their hair or clothes. So you aren’t stepping into the reality of the economics of their business. That being said – if the doll were on the shelves amongst other dolls w/ hair – then perhaps it could spawn conversation with kids and parents as they pass through the toy aisle.

    Also – I thought it was cool that the dolls were going to be donated to kids who need them and if they are in hospitals – then odds are their parents are facing big bills for their treatment. Why slam down an act that may put a smile on a kids face knowing she or he isn’t alone in their journey (while not causing their parents to spend another penny). I want the same changes you do – but if we aren’t going to be realistic about how commerce works in this country we are just going to be complaining endlessly without seeing much of the progress we desire.

  • Anna says:

    What about women who shave their heads simply out of choice? Why do we necessarily equate the lack of hair with cancer?

  • Why can’t they do both? Donate dolls to needs children in the hospital and make the dolls available to the public so those who want them can buy them? Not every kid who has alopecia or trichotillomania receives treatment in a hospital, so what about them? I agree with Larkin. It’s weird that it’s so “separate.” Isn’t the whole point to normalize?

  • Magdalena says:

    I agree. Kids with alopecia don’t have any need to be in a hospital. They just don’t have hair. It would be wonderful to normalize that.

  • seerat malik says:

    wow! i love this first picture it’s very very pretty.

    thank you!!!!!

    wow!!!¡!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • roomana naz says:

    wow!!!!!!!!!!! it is very pretty i hope kids would
    like this first picture

    <3 🙂 🙂 🙂 )d <3<3

  • C says:

    I’ve never had cancer nor have I had to see anyone fight their way through cancer with chemo. I do have lupus but thats neither here nor there. I keep my hair almost bald because I like it and I would love to get a Barbie for my collection that was bald.

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