Next year, Barbie’s world of Malibu dream houses, beauty salons and fast cars will include Chemo.

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When I was a kid I loved Barbie.  I really did.  She had nice clothes, great friends and like me, could never find both of her shoes.  She was a transitional doll.  There comes a time in a little girl’s life (in the 70’s mind you) when playing cumbersome baby dolls becomes sophomoric.  Barbie is much more mature and travels easier.  However, Barbie never did make me feel pretty.

Let me also say that I didn’t feel as though she had a negative effect on my self-esteem.  I played with boys mostly.  We were put outside to hide and to seek.  To throw balls to and at each other.  Barbie was a bit of delicious girl pleasure.

The movement to bring Barbie into the cancer world has left me at a bit of a loss.  Turning Barbie into a symbol of triumphant, bald beauty for children who are living with a cancer diagnosis, or other illnesses that cause them to lose their hair such as Alopecia and Trichotillomania so they, too, can feel accepted, beautiful and normal, just doesn’t sit well with me.

One petition states:

“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.”

“Lets make every child fighting an illness that causes them to lose their hair feel special and beautiful-like the Barbies/Dolls they play with!”

“The goal of this “Barbie” is that all children know that bald is beautiful and deal with their own hair loss or a loved one’s . The proceeds from this doll would go to a pediatric Cancer research facility.”

Little girls with cancer and other diseases need a bald Barbie dressed in an evening gown like I need another pink ribbon candle.  I think that I could move more towards center on the idea if Chemo-Barbie was no pimped out to the nines in a resplendent gown.  The opulence in itself feels alienating to me.  I’m not suggesting (as some have) that she be made to look gaunt, wear a hospital gown, or come with an IV, but if the goal is “normalization” then why is her opulent attire so far removed from that of every little girl undergoing treatments’?  Fantasy?  Perhaps.  Escapism?  Okay, maybe.  Still there is a disconnect.

Children with cancer have special needs.  What they need is money.  Not money funneled through Mattel, or any other corporation making a profit on the back of a cancer diagnosis, but money donated directly to reputable charities that help children directly.  Money donated to well established research organizations who are making a tangible contribution to more effective, less harmful cancer treatments, who are actively seeking to end cancer such as the Children’s Oncology Group (COG).

“The Children’s Oncology Group (COG), a National Cancer Institute supported clinical trials group, is the world’s largest organization devoted exclusively to childhood and adolescent cancer research. The COG unites more than 7,500 experts in childhood cancer at more than 200 leading children’s hospitals, universities, and cancer centers across North America, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe in the fight against childhood cancer.”

If our goal is to support children with cancer, (46 boys and girls are diagnosed every day in the US) your –tax-deductible- $28 is better served being given directly to a charity supporting and investing in new research for pediatric cancer. Children with cancer and their families need the kind of money that Mattel makes within the span of a single holiday season spent on research more than follicularly-challenged dolls in evening gowns that don’t resemble them, remotely, in any other way. Honestly?  If we wanted our dolls to look like our girls — if that is the premise behind the call for a bald Barbie — she would not be built to exemplify a wholly unnatural and unattainable idea of what women should look like.

If you really want a bald Barbie.  Great.  But buying “Hope” as a way to make a donation to a great charity like St. Jude’s is really, just, well… uninformed.  Making a purchase based soley on the idea that the “proceeds” go to a worthy charity is nuts.  Let me tell you that the “proceeds” are a pittance. 

I think Mattel may just be making a good compromise on this one… Mattel company spokesman Alan Hilowitz told HealthPop that the company will produce a friend of Barbie who will be bald that will have wigs, hats, scarves and other accessories to give children “a traditional fashion play experience.” The kids will have the option to remove the wigs and head coverings.

The company stated that they will not be selling the dolls at stores, but instead will donate them to children’s hospitals and other hospitals, as well as the National Alopecia Areata Foundation for children who face other causes of hair loss.  At least for now.  Good call Mattel.

Interestingly enough, the Facebook petition site DID convince Los Angeles-based MGA Entertainment, maker of the Barbie competitors Bratz and Moxie Girlz (which don’t even remotely resemble real human beings) to come out with a line of bald dolls for cancer patients and their friends and relatives.

In February, MGA announced its “True Hope” Bratz and Moxie Girlz dolls, which will launch in June at Toys “R” Us stores. MGA will donate $1 from every doll sold to the California-based, comprehensive cancer center City of Hope for its cancer research.

Mira’s Movement

CureSearch

St. Baldrick’s

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