Fri, Jan 13, 2012 - Page 7 News List

FEATURE: Facebook group wants bald Barbie


Barbie has been an astronaut, an architect, a race car driver and a news anchor.

Now, there is an online movement to get her to attempt what could be her biggest feat yet: going bald to fight cancer.

A Facebook page titled “Beautiful and Bald Barbie! Let’s see if we can get it made” was started late last month, a few days before Christmas. By Wednesday afternoon, the page had more than 15,000 fans. The goal is to get toy maker Mattel Inc to create a bald Barbie in support of children with cancer.

Friends Rebecca Sypin and Jane Bingham, who live on opposite coasts but have both been affected by the disease, hatched the idea for the social media movement because Barbie is an influential children’s toy.

Bingham has lost her hair due to chemotherapy treatments to treat lymphoma. Sypin’s 12-year-old daughter, Kin Inich, also lost her hair this year in her own battle to treat leukemia.

Mattel did not return calls on Wednesday seeking comment, but the women said they have contacted the company through some general form letters. In return, they said, they have received form letters that say Mattel does not accept ideas from outside sources.

The women say a bald Barbie would provide a huge platform to raise awareness for children with cancer.

Barbie, all 11.5 inches of her, is one of the best-known toys of all time. She can sell for US$10 at Walmart or US$7,000 on e-Bay. She has taken on all sorts of incarnations throughout her nearly 53 years of existence, crushing stereotypes and showing little girls that they can be whatever they want to be. There has been an elegant Grace Kelly Barbie; a Barbie in thigh-high pink boots; a tattooed Barbie; a pregnant Barbie friend and another Barbie friend in a wheelchair.

Barbie has also been criticized for not being as socially responsible as she could have been. She is best known for her curves, which have long sparked complaints by women’s groups who say she imposes an unachievable physical standard on young girls. She was also lambasted when a talking version uttered an exclamation about math class being hard.

The friends who started the “Beautiful and Bald Barbie” movement are not natural activists. Sypin, 32, is a special-education teacher’s aide in Lancaster, California. Bingham, 41, is a photographer in Sewell, New Jersey.

“We’re not demanding that the company do anything,” Sypin said on Wednesday. “We’re just hoping somebody sees this and can help us make it happen.”

Overall, Sypin said she has been pleased with the response to the Facebook page. One fan of the Facebook page wrote about Mattel: “If they are making dolls that are inspiring young girls with careers then why not make a doll that would inspire young girls who are dealing with Cancer.”

Some commenters suggested the friends take the movement further and extend it to boys. So, over the weekend, they started an accompanying Facebook page, “Bald G.I. Joe Movement.”

Hasbro Inc, the maker of G.I. Joe, did not immediately return a call for comment.

The movement has its critics, too.

Some people have told the women to just take a normal Barbie and shave her hair off to make the same point. Bingham posted photos where she did just that — resulting in patchy, unattractive clumps on Barbie’s head. She also posted digitally doctored pictures of a bald Barbie to show how beautiful the doll could be.

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