A Girl Scout Barbie? No, just no.
I was a Girl Scout throughout my childhood, and loved it so much that in my teens I spent several summers as a camp counselor at a residential Girl Scout camp in the hills of northwestern Connecticut. In Scouts I learned to love the outdoors, music, late-night sharing and giggles with other girls and yes, s’mores. As a camper, I even loved the chores. As a teenager, I appreciated learning how to properly mop a large kitchen floor. I felt a part of something good, something healthy, a collective.
As a girl I also loved my Barbie doll collection. They fueled my imagination and gave me hours of joy as a young girl. I had it all: a variety of Barbie’s, Ken, the big orange camper, the Dream House, and the pink convertible. Oh, and the wardrobe! Bathing suits, heels, fancy ballroom gowns. This was the 70s, so I didn’t have the opportunity to play with Soccer Player Barbie or Entrepreneur Barbie. My dolls were just plain old Barbie’s with the big boobs and tiny waist and the suspiciously good-looking boyfriend.
I loved both of these worlds. But they don’t belong together. As an adult and the mother of a girl, I look down on Barbie and all “she” represents. If Barbie was a real person, her proportions are so ludicrous she’d topple over. No one looks like that. A standard Barbie doll is 11.5 inches tall, with a height of 5 feet 9 inches at 1/6 scale. Barbie's vital statistics have been estimated at a 36 inch chest, an 18 (18!) inch waist and hips measuring a whopping 33 inches. According to research by the University Central Hospital in Helsinki-Finland, real-life Barbie would lack the body fat required for a girl/woman to menstruate.
Even as a young girl, I knew Barbie was a fake and wanted my dolls to look different. I cut her hair and painted streaks in it with my favorite magic markers. I poked sewing pins into her head, so she could have earrings.
What did Barbie teach me? Not much. What does she teach girls now? Not much.
I’m a Girl Scout leader to a group of lively, smart, funny girls in Lyons, Colorado. Over the past five years, I’ve watched shy E. learn how to use her voice. Last year, when we were discussing bullying, E. spoke up, through tears, and told us about being bullied. S., who lives and breathes the arts, watched as a thousand year flood hit her home, the waters swallowing up her precious works of art. She’s a survivor. She’s real. I’ve watched J., who at six and seven seemed unsure how to handle her innate leadership abilities—but by age eleven, has turned into a compassionate girl who has learned to use her ability to influence for good.
These girls are everything we hope for in Scouting. The motto for Girl Scouts is Courage. Confidence. Character. These ten girls represent these qualities. They are bold, skinny, awkward, chubby, hilarious, loving. They wear glasses, retainers and socks of different colors. One has diabetes, another a learning disability. Together and apart, they are navigating the changes in their bodies and in their minds. Sometimes at troop meetings we do crafts and sit around and talk about friendship struggles and stuff going on at home. Other times we play charades or Twister and make the most delicious shakes out of Thin Mints® and homemade ice cream. We do community service projects, working with the local garden club to beautify our town, especially this past year, after the Flood of 2013. We make quilts for ill children and bake, decorate and deliver cookies to low-income families. Together and apart, the girls are learning who and what and how they want to be in the world.
Which is what Girl Scouts gave to me: a sense of belonging, unconditional love, a place to grow and experiment with the person I was becoming. I knew, at the end of the day, lying on my lumpy cot in the platform tent with the canvas walls that reeked of mold, that I was loved. I belonged. I could be who I was. Life was good in Girl Scouting. Life, here in my early fifties, is good in Girl Scouts. I am still learning, still growing, still exploring, real.
I’m surprised that the Girl Scouts organization bought into this partnership. I truly hope it was not the two million bucks they got from Mattel©. Girl Scout spokeswoman Kelly Parisi said, "Girls and moms alike associate this doll with the outdoors, camping, giving back in your community and we think that those are really positive messages to all of our girls.” Since when does Barbie conjure up images of getting dirty while camping, covered in bug spray and sleeping in a tent crammed with other girls? Barbie gives back to the community? Um, really?
If Barbie is to represent Girl Scouts, here’s what I’d like to see: Maybe she’s a little overweight. Perhaps one breast is bigger than the other. What about a big butt? A few scars on her legs, the ones she got from riding her bike? A scrape from when she biffed it on her first black ski run? How about if Girl Scout Barbie wore real hiking boots or sports sandals instead of the ridiculous high-heeled boots? What if Girl Scout Barbie had braces, or an insulin pump or gasp! zits on her nose?
Let’s not connect fake Barbie with the real girls of Girl Scouts. I’ve kept in touch with my Girl Scout friends for over 35 years. They are teachers and activists, health care professionals, writers and artists and university professors. Some work at grocery stores and farms and others are full-time mothers. They’re gay, straight, overweight, thin, black, white, Asian, Native American. They are engaged, hearty and big-hearted women with lives full of joys, failures, dreams and sorrows. Real.
A Girl Scout Barbie? No, just no.