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A Barbie merit badge? Consumer groups want Girl Scout ban

March 6, 2014
Personal Finance
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Oh, Barbie, what’s a girl to do? First the brouhaha over the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, and now groups want to kick you out of the Girl Scouts.

Two consumer groups are enraged by a merit badge aimed at 5-to-8-year-old Daisy and Brownie scouts called the Barbie participation patch. The groups claim the Mattel toy company partnership turns girls into “walking advertisements,” according to the Associated Press.

“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,” said Susan Linn, director of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. Another consumer group, Center for a New American Dream, has joined the protest.

The Girl Scouts dispute the criticism. The tie-in “teaches girls about inspiring women in a fun way,” spokeswoman Kelly Parisi told USA Today. “We stand behind this partnership, as it helps us bring to over 2 million Girl Scouts the message that they can do anything.”

The Barbie backlash doesn’t end there. The hourglass-shaped icon is getting new competition from the crowdsourced Lammily doll, which aims to produce dolls with average proportions. “Right now, there is no doll on the market which is affordable and which is made according to realistic body proportions,” creator Nickolay Lamm told the Christian Science Monitor. “Many people are criticizing Barbie and there is no alternative. I decided to make one, and Lammily is a result of those efforts.”

And an Oregon State University study published Wednesday found that girls who played with Barbies were less likely to think themselves capable of entering as many professions as boys. “Although the marketing slogan suggest that Barbie can ‘Be Anything,’ girls playing with Barbie appear to believe that there are more careers for boys than for themselves,” the study’s authors wrote.

There was one toy the researchers found that leveled the career playing field. Girls who played with Mrs. Potato Head were found to aspire to the same careers as boys.

Illustration by Brian Yee