Child Caring

Girl Scouts and Barbie? Not a good match

Dear Barbara,
My daughter, 7, is a Brownie, something I encouraged because I did it as a girl and loved it. The troop recently began a project called a Barbie Patch. I asked the troop leader about it and she said it was a national project. On line, I saw that the Girl Scouts have teamed up with Mattel and are receiving big $$ for its partnership. I don't want to be "that" mother who makes everyone else uncomfortable, including my daughter, but it doesn't feel right to me that the Brownies are pushing Barbie on my daughter when she and her friends weren't even into Barbie. Maybe they would be on their own one of these days, but they weren't yet. I can't decide whether this is worth a stand or not. Thoughts?
From: former Girl Scout in NJ

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Dear former Girl Scout,
You're right, the Girl Scouts have sold out to Mattel to the tune of $2 million. OK, ok, they've partnered with Mattel and created an activity that uses Barbie as a role model that a girl can "Be Anything, Do Everything." And, yes, it includes a game where Barbie comes dressed in outfits allegedly appropriate for various careers.
Not a bad message for young girls. But why does the Girl Scouts have to partner with anybody to send it?
I don't blame you for being upset. I don't want any organization pushing a toy/doll/product on my child. Just by the alliance, the girls in the troop will make the association that this doll is not only The Doll they should have but also The Doll that the Girl Scouts admire as a role model for how to look and dress. In other words, it comes with the implied message that Barbie and all that she entails is for you. (I think that's something we tend to forget: anytime we give our kids anything, children make the assumption that we agree and accept the implied messages the item conveys.)
Several organizations opposed to using children as targets for marketers have already voiced concern over the Girl Scout-Mattel partnership which is, by the way, the first time ever that the Girl Scouts have entered into such a partnership. Susan Linn is the executive director of one of them, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood,CCFG and I spoke to her yesterday about what makes this so distasteful.
"The Barbie brand is anti-Girl Scout in every way," she said. "Barbie is all about an unhealthy body image and being a consumer. The Girl Scouts is about empowering girls to make healthy choices. Whether girls play with Barbie is not the issue. The issue is whether the Girl Scouts should be an advertising vehicle for any brand."
There's plenty you can do as just one mom. Talk to your daughter about being the target of advertising. Ask the troop leader if you can make an age-appropriate presentation to the troop on marketing and media literacy. A quick aside: When my son was about this age and asking for products he saw advertised, I taught him about how ads try to trick us. The best concrete example: I gave him a big spoon, put some milk on it and then we tried to pile on the cereal. Doesn't work! How do those ads do it? Ah! Elmer's Glue!
Talk to other moms in the troop. Spread the word. On the link above for CCFC, there's a whole section on how to spread the word. And by the way, I'm a former Girl Scout myself.

The best example a kid can understand is the famouslycereal bowl filled with Elmer's glue instead of milkcans can be trickyusused the Make a presentation to the troop about media literacy. Make a presentation to the troop about other moms in the troop about it.

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