A Company With Heart — The Bald Barbie Story


Mattel's Bald Barbie dollMattel really got it right with this one.  The “Bald and Beautiful” Barbie for young girls with cancer is a truly beautiful thing.

I would certainly not consider myself an authority on the relationship girls have to dolls.  I was never terribly excited about them.

I hated fashion dolls as they were thin.  My mother had explained to me early on that none of the women in our family were thin — so I would never be.  She tried to find me a chubbier doll, but I was not fond of clothes then.  Maybe I could have related to a doll that looked fat enough to need to shop at Lane Bryant for clothes that fit.  There was no such doll then.

Me?  It’s not so hard to believe now, but I was more excited about convincing my parents to buy me my first chemistry set.  Although, I did have to endure watching my mother do the experiments as she had decided they were too dangerous for me — even supervised.

Flash forward to my time in the Army when I had a few days off and out of uniform.  I found myself driving around the southeast — exploring history.  I visited the Martin Luther King house, and was shocked to find that the females of the family had white dolls.  I did not see any black dolls at all in that house — so I asked about it.

The guide told me that they simply did not make black dolls back then.  You had a white doll or you did not have a doll.  The idea of a girl having a doll who looked even a little like her was not an option for black girls then.

Once, I found myself sitting in a doctor’s lounge with two women physicians.  Strangely enough, I asked them about their dolls.  Both said they had favored dolls that somehow resembled them as young girls — at least in hair and eye color.

I had a friend once who was middle-aged and in the process of male to female transgendering.  She spent a lot of time — more than I would have ever dreamed of spending — in a beauty salon, complicating her curly blond mane.  And she loved Victorian clothes.  While visiting a second hand store I found a doll with Victorian clothes and a curly blond mane.  I gave it to her, telling her it made me think of her.   She repressed tears.  I told her, “It’s the doll you did not have when you were little.”

Although I have seen no literature on this sort of thing, I have since become convinced that every girl deserves a doll that resembles her, as she grows and becomes even a little aware of her own body.  I have not done much pediatric treatment but I can only imagine how a young girl’s body image must be aggressed — if not near-destroyed — by cancer.

Mattel has distributed “Bald and Beautiful” Barbie dolls to girls all over the world.  I had to repress tears while reading about it.  And they are charitable — giving not selling.

For once, the cynical part of me that hates big companies has been put to rest by a gesture that is big and beautiful and human.

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