January 13, 2012
Mothers Launch Bald Barbie Campaign For Cancer Awareness
Mattel´s Barbie franchise – those glamorous toy dolls with notoriously unrealistic physical dimensions – may soon be making an unprecedented foray into the real world. If a growing community of Facebookers has its way, the next version of the iconic American plaything might ditch her golden locks for a chic smooth scalp.
Just days before Christmas, friends Rebecca Sypin and Jane Bingham launched a Facebook page called “Beautiful and Bald Barbie! Let´s see if we can get it made.” Within a week, the page had over 16,000 fans and has continued to grow by leaps and bounds. As of Friday, the page had been ℠liked´ by almost 100,000 users.
The two women say their aim is to persuade toy-maker Mattel to introduce a line of bald Barbies in an effort to show solidarity and support for children suffering from cancer.
The opening lines of their Facebook page reads: “We would like to see a Beautiful and Bald Barbie made to help young girls who suffer from hair loss due to cancer treatments, Alopecia or Trichotillomania.”
Both Sypin and Bingham have had personal experience with disease: Bingham is currently fighting lymphoma and has lost her hair due to chemotherapy, and Sypin´s 12-year-old daughter has lost her's as well in her treatments for leukemia.
While Mattel initially declined to make a formal comment, the company acknowledged that it had received letters from the two women and noted that they do not generally accept design ideas from outside sources.
Yet with pressure mounting, streams of letters coming in, and a growing number supporters for the website, Mattel finally issued a formal statement on Thursday.
“We are honored that Jane Bingham and Beckie Sypin believe that Barbie could be the face of such an important cause. Mattel appreciates and respects the passion that has been built up for the request for a bald Barbie doll.”
“As you might imagine, we receive hundreds of passionate requests for various dolls to be added to our collection. We take all of them seriously and are constantly exploring new and different dolls to be added to our line,” the statement added.
Mattel also highlighted that the company and its charity arm the Mattel Children´s Foundation have donated nearly $30 million to children´s causes in recent years as well as over a half a million toys.
Neither Sypin or Bingham are experienced activists, and they have insisted that they´re not trying to force Mattel to do anything they don´t want to. They believe, however, that the popularity and iconic status of Barbie dolls would offer an ideal platform to call attention to and support the thousands of young people currently suffering from cancer in the U.S.
“We´re not demanding that the company do anything,” Sypin said Wednesday. “We´re just hoping somebody sees this and can help us make it happen.”
Since the creation of the first doll in 1959, Barbie´s descendents have had an ambiguous and evolving relationship with American culture. On the one hand, versions of the doll in which Barbie is dressed as an astronaut, flaunting tattoos or even black have been hailed by some women´s rights activists as bold and groundbreaking attempts to smash gender and race stereotypes. Yet in more recent years, Barbie has frequently drawn heat from a number of women´s groups on account of the patently unnatural proportions of her body and the unattainable physical ideal that it supposedly presents to young girls.
Whatever the outcome of their grassroots campaign may be, Sypin and Bingham say that they´ve been moved and encouraged by the unexpected wildfire-like success of their Facebook page.
For a small handful of critics who´ve insisted that a more traditional fund-raising event for cancer research would be a better investment of their energies than getting Mattel to make a bald Barbie, Sypin and Bingham point out that successful fund-raising efforts first require awareness–and raising awareness is exactly what their project has done.
“A lot of these people wouldn´t have even thought about doing that without this movement,” said Bingham.
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