Advocates Decry $2 Million Deal For Barbie-Theme Girl Guide Badge

Mattel Barbie dolls
Barbie dolls Reuters

Advocacy groups are calling on the Girl Scouts of the USA to end its partnership with Mattel Inc. (NASDAQ:MAT) in a new Barbie-themed program. Participants ages 5 to 8 would learn about career choices to earn a badge emblazoned with “Be Anything, Do Everything” along with the Barbie logo.

It’s the latest in a stream of public discussion of the world's most famous doll since she graced the cover of Sports Illustrated early this year. But Barbie is no stranger to high-profile partnerships -- which could be helpful given the 13 percent drop in sales last quarter.

Since its launch in 1959, the doll has had more than 130 “careers.” “She’s broken more glass ceilings than Sheryl Sandberg,” wrote Time reporter Charlotte Alter last month

The $2 million deal was announced last August, but members of the Center for a New American Dream and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood called on the Girl Scouts to put an end to the program, which includes completing an “I Can Be…” activity booklet where girls explore career choices.

“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,'” Susan Linn, director of the CCFC, told the Associated Press.

The kerfuffle comes just weeks after Barbie appeared on the cover of the Sports Illustrated, kicking off the “#Unapologetic” campaign slogan that took over a Times Square billboard and was trending on Twitter.

“Like Girl Scouts, Barbie is an American icon; together we are teaching girls that their futures are wide open with possibilities, and that they can accomplish anything they set their sights on in their careers,” said Girl Scouts CEO Anna Marie Chavez in a press release.

Since launching in 1959, Barbie has had more than 130 "careers," including surgeon, lawyer, sign language teacher, paratrooper, astronaut, flight attendant and news anchor, to name a few.

“Girl Scouts should be a safe place for girls to be who they are and not be fed images of corporate falsehoods on who they should be,” said Christie Parker, a troop leader who was quoted in a CCFC press release, which added that the program would turn Scouts’ uniforms into “walking advertisements.”

This is not Barbie's first corporate partnership. In 1989, Mattel teamed up with PepsiCo Inc. (NYSE:PEP) for Pepsi Spirit Skipper. A decade later, the Coca-Cola Company (NYSE:KO) created a series of dolls. In 1997, Mattel teamed with Nabisco to create the “Oreo Fun Barbie,” and the next year, NASCAR Barbie hit the shelves. And Deere & Co. (NYSE:DE) even jumped on the Barbie bandwagon, creating the John Deere Barbie, complete with denim overalls, baseball hat and sunglasses, which hit the shelves in 2007. 

Join the Discussion