BeyondConsumerism

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Is Barbie really the role model we want influencing young Girl Scouts?

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) and the Center for a New American Dream (New Dream) are urging Girl Scouts of USA (GSUSA) to end a partnership with Mattel that promotes Barbie to girls.

The partnership includes a co-branded activity book, website, and a Barbie participation patch for Girl Scout Daisies and Brownies (girls in kindergarten through 3rd grade). In their petition, CCFC and New Dream called on GSUSA to stay true to their mission and stop promoting the Barbie brand.

“This is product placement at its worst,” said New Dream’s executive director Wendy Philleo. “We have always been great admirers of the Girl Scouts and are very disappointed in the recent partnership with Mattel. Our children are already being bombarded by marketers’ pitches at stores, at home, online, on TV, and in school. We urge the Girl Scouts to discontinue this partnership, and maintain their organization as one of the few commercial-free experiences in a girl’s life.”

Over the years, the Barbie brand has frequently come under fire for promoting harmful stereotypes to young girls. Currently, Mattel is facing heavy criticism for Barbie’s appearance in the notorious Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. GSUSA’s endorsement is particularly valuable as Mattel pushes back against its critics with a campaign declaring that it’s “#unapologetic” about Barbie and her influence on girls.

“Holding Barbie, the quintessential fashion doll, up as a role model for Girl Scouts simultaneously sexualizes young girls, idealizes an impossible body type, and undermines the Girl Scouts’ vital mission to build ‘girls of courage, confidence, and character,’” said CCFC’s director Dr. Susan Linn. “It is particularly troubling that the youngest scouts are encouraged to wear a Barbie patch on their uniforms, transforming them into walking advertisements. While Mattel and the Barbie brand benefit enormously from the Girl Scouts’ endorsement, the partnership harms girls."

In announcing the partnership with Mattel, GSUSA’s CEO Anna Marie Chavez 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 solely 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 for sale in Barbie’s I Can Be... line.

The partnership is particularly troubling to long-time supporters of GSUSA’s mission, including New Dream's Edna Rienzi, a troop leader and mother of three Girl Scouts. “I am a huge fan of the Girl Scouts organization, and I take my responsibility as a troop leader very seriously. Because of this high regard, I am particularly disappointed in the partnership between the Girl Scouts and Mattel. Mattel may be #unapologetic about Barbie’s influence on young girls, but I expect more from the Girl Scouts.”

Click here to sign the petition, or read Edna's blog for her personal story and more information. Looking to get involved on Twitter or Facebook? Use the hashtag: #BetterThanBarbie to help send a message to GSUSA.