An online campaign is pushing strongly for the creation of a barbie who is suffering from a nonspecific hair loss condition.
Barbie, arguably the world’s most famous doll, has been through a lot of hairstyles since Mattel introduced her in March 1959. Now a new campaign on Facebook seeks to convince the makers of Barbie to take hairstyle to a new level and market a bald Barbie.
“I created the Facebook page (“Beautiful and Bald Barbie: Let’s see if we can get it made”) on December 20, 2011,” says Jane Bingham. She was inspired by an article about Mattel creating a one-of-a-kind Princess Barbie for a little girl with cancer.
“She was having a terrible time adjusting to having no hair from chemotherapy,” says Bingham, “and someone had a connection with Mattel and was able to get this made for her. I thought how great it would be if more bald Barbies could be mass-produced so many more children and women could benefit from it.” Another mother, Beckie Sypin, joined up to help right away; her daughter is currently experiencing hair loss from cancer treatments.
Although Bingham’s daughter is fortunately not dealing with cancer, Bingham herself has been undergoing chemotherapy and lost her hair in summer 2011. “It was very difficult for her to accept and adjust to,” she says. “She would often say to me that she wished I didn’t lose my hair or would mimic me and try to wrap scarves around her head. My daughter is thrilled about the possibility of a bald doll. She told me it would have helped her understand about me going bald if she had a bald Barbie or another bald fashion doll.”
A bald Barbie would raise awareness
Bingham believes a bald Barbie would be a great adjustment tool for children who have a relative losing her hair from chemotherapy. She thinks it would also have benefits for children who are going through hair loss themselves, “whether it be from cancer treatments, alopecia, trichotillomania or any other condition. And for children who don’t have anyone in their life who has hair loss, such dolls would help reduce the ‘strangeness’ of seeing another child or a woman out in public who has no hair. This would help bring awareness so that children and women wouldn’t feel they need to hide so much. Hopefully it would reduce some teasing and bullying of children with hair loss.”
The public response to the campaign has been very gratifying, with more than 151,000 people “liking” the Facebook page.
And what about Mattel? “At first they sent us form letters stating they do not take suggestions from outside sources” says Bingham. “Then they issued a statement that they were honored we felt Barbie could be the face of such an important issue and went on to list the many things they already do for children, which is quite a lot. They even have Mattel’s Children’s Hospital in connection with UCLA.”
Mattel did meet with Bingham and Sypin on February 12, 2012. Bingham felt the meeting went well, and there was a promise that talks would continue; however, as of March 23 there had been no further communication. “We do hope to hear something more soon,” she says.
Is our society ready for a bald Barbie?
Marla Deibler, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist and director of the Center for Emotional Health of Greater Philadelphia, believes a bald Barbie could have a beneficial effect.
“When individuals are affected by hair loss,” says Deibler, “it affects not only their appearance to others but also their identity, how they feel about themselves and how others perceive them. Hair loss is therefore a complex experience that may have great psychological and interpersonal consequences.
“Humans instinctively engage in social comparison,” Deibler continues. “They compare themselves to others in order to develop views of themselves and their behavior. We look to others and to our environment to understand that which is acceptable and unacceptable, attractive and unattractive, ‘normal’ or ‘abnormal.’
“The development and sale of a bald Barbie doll has the potential to have substantial positive effects on children as well as adults who experience hair loss. By producing and marketing a bald doll, society is conveying a message that bald is acceptable, attractive, and desirable. It has the potential to decrease the negative stigma associated with hair loss and bring baldness into the range of ‘normal’ human appearance. This has the potential, on a more personal level, to help those living with hair loss to feel better about themselves, reduce the shame and embarrassment associated with hair loss, reduce the activity and interpersonal avoidance that can accompany hair loss, and promote self acceptance. In short, a bald Barbie has the potential to help those who suffer from hair loss to feel happier, more confident, more attractive, and more engaged in their world.”
Bingham agrees that this campaign has potential benefits. “We hope this brings awareness to childhood cancer, which is often kept hush-hush because it is hard to talk about,” she says. “But childhood cancer is not as rare as many would like us to believe. Only a small amount of funding goes to childhood cancer; we want that to change.”
There’s already been one positive doll-related development, although not involving Barbie. Bingham says that MGA Entertainment, the makers of Moxie Girlsz and Bratz dolls, will be marketing six bald dolls this summer. “They heard the outcry for such a doll and decided to address that desire and need,” she says, adding that one dollar of each doll sale will to City of Hope hospital for research and treatment of pediatric cancer.
“We are thrilled about this!” Bingham says — and understandably so.