Thursday, January 12, 2012

Battle of the bald continues to ignore women of color

On Wednesday, I saw reports about a recently created Facebook fan page encouraging a new look for an old favorite – the Barbie doll.

The "Beautiful and Bald Barbie! Let's see if we can get it made" campaign, which began in early December, reported about 15,000 fans on Wednesday morning. Today, the page has more than 37,000 fans (I witnessed a 600 fan jump in a 15-minute time span last night).

The creators of the fan page say, "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. Also, for young girls who are having trouble coping with their mother's hair loss from chemo. Many children have some difficulty accepting their mother, sister, aunt, grandparent or friend going from a long haired to a bald." [sic]

I commend these women for wanting to shed a greater light on the issue of how young girls are affected by cancer and other diseases, whether it is directly or indirectly. It is difficult enough growing up in a society where they are bombarded with looking a certain way, being the perfect size and wearing the right clothes and accessories without then having to try to fit in with their peers when they’ve lost their hair.

Reportedly, the two women, the growing fan base and others have deluged the Mattel company – maker of Barbie – with letters and phone calls, with their vote to create a new doll that would be so inspirational to tens of thousands young girls and would teach millions of others a little more about acceptance.

Mattel confirms it has received the requests, but reportedly doesn’t take ideas from outside sources. However, if the toy company does decide to create a doll for this segment of society, I’m not sure if I’m entirely on board with the idea.

I am beyond sympathetic when it comes to anyone suffering from a life-threatening disease, especially when it afflicts our youth. But if Mattel eventually creates a bald doll, it should represent more than girls impacted by disease.

For many cultures around the world, being bald is a thing of beauty. It represents strength, self-confidence and often times is considered sexy (by adults). But why hasn’t Mattel done more to be globally correct? A few years ago, it did launch the “S.I.S.” – So In Style” – collection to mixed reviews as the line of dolls all have long and mostly light-colored hair.

In a 2009 CNN article, Tanisa Zoe Samuel, an African-American iReporter from the Turks and Caicos, in the Caribbean, said, "Black women come in all shades, shapes and varieties that there is just no way to capture everyone with three dolls."

The S.I.S. collection was a great move – but it does not represent the millions of women representing thousands of ethnic groups who would love to have a doll for their daughters that gives the girls pride in who they are versus a doll that often promotes the idea that what they purchase to enhance their natural beauty is something for which to strive.

It just seems that once again, women of color are being ignored and devalued - and replaced with a "cause" that is something more people can get on board with. I hope Mattel – if it comes up with the idea “on its own” to create a bald Barbie – will think twice about its mission to be inclusive.

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