Update: As if encouraging girls to wear a branded Barbie patch on their uniforms isn’t bad enough, now Mattel and Girl Scouts USA have escalated their $2 million co-branding partnership by introducing a Barbie Girl Scout Doll—pink capris, high heeled hiking boots and all.
For generations, the Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) has been a powerful force for good in the in the lives of girls. Parents trust the Girl Scouts to provide positive role models and foster their daughters’ healthy development. That’s why it’s troubling that GSUSA received $2 million from Mattel to promote the Barbie brand to young Scouts.
|“Girl Scouts should be a safe place for girls to be who they are and not be fed images of corporate falsehoods on who they should be.” – Christie Parker, Troop Leader.|
Barbie is now featured prominently in the “For Girls” section of girlscouts.org. A web game produced by the Girl Scouts and Mattel is little more than an interactive ad. And Daisies and Brownies, the youngest Scouts, are encouraged to wear a Barbie patch, transforming their previously commercial-free uniforms into walking advertisements.
Partnering with Mattel undermines GSUSA’s vital mission to “build girls of courage, confidence, and character.” Over the years, Mattel has frequently been criticized for promoting sexualized stereotypes to young girls -- most recently for Barbie’s inclusion in the notorious Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. While Mattel and the Barbie brand benefit enormously from GSUSA’s endorsement, the partnership harms girls. In addition to encouraging sexualization, the Barbie brand idealizes a dangerously impossible body type. Research shows that girls 5-8 -- the exact age targeted by the Barbie/Girl Scout partnership -- who are exposed to Barbie report more dissatisfaction with their own bodies and want to be thinner.
In announcing the partnership with Mattel, the Girl Scouts’ CEO called Barbie “an American Icon” whose appeal would encourage girls to “explore exciting new career possibilities.” The campaign tells girls that they can “be anything,” but an inescapable component of that message is that girls should aspire to be like Barbie. Girls visiting the GSUSA’s I Can Be... website view pictures of Barbie dolls and are asked to identify their careers based on their attire: from a veterinarian in a frilly mini-skirt, to a pink-suited U.S. president, to a racecar driver in stilettos. Many of the outfits pictured are worn by actual Barbies available for purchase.
We have enormous respect for the Girl Scouts, which is why we asked them privately to end the partnership with Mattel. But our efforts were fruitless -- so now we need your help. Please visit http://org.salsalabs.com/o/621/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=15223 to urge GSUSA to cut all ties with Barbie.
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This action was originally posted on March 6, 2014. It was updated on July 21.