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Is Bald Cancer Barbie Doll Becoming a Symbol of Shame?

Tim Boyer's picture
Barbie Doll

While a Bald Cancer Barbie doll is originally intended as symbol of hope for those who have lost their hair to cancer and other illnesses, is that symbol becoming one of shame? Recent outrage directed at a blogger employed by the American Cancer Society regarding his blog post about the potential manufacture of a Bald Barbie doll has resulted in anger and demands for his firing in spite of removal of the post and a public apology. Which begs the question—can social media go too far?

Bald Cancer Barbie is the brainchild of two moms who believe that Barbie, the symbol of fashion and success for many young girls, can become even more than just an iconic doll by inspiring children with cancer and hair loss. To gain support for their idea, they have created a Facebook page titled "Beautiful and Bald Barbie! Let's see if we can get it made" with the goal of generating public support through social media to get toy maker Mattel Inc. to create a Bald Barbie in support of children who have lost hair to cancer and other illnesses.

Thus far, the idea of a Bald Barbie has generated tens of thousands of supporters and appears to be a great idea for not only helping the self-esteem of children stricken with cancer, but also as a way to raise awareness and funding for cancer research.

However, not everyone is in total agreement with the effectiveness of the efforts toward these goals initiated by the idea of creating a Bald Barbie.

“Andrew Becker, a director of media relations for the American Cancer Society, drew ire after posting a controversial blog post on the American Cancer Society’s website called ”Bald Barbie Demand Is an Over-Reach,” reports ABC News. In the post, Becker said the Bald Barbie movement could “do more harm than good for kids and parents."

‘If they are mass marketed, many of these dolls will end up in the hands of girls who luckily aren’t likely to be touched by cancer in themselves or their mothers. But could they end up being terrorized by the prospect of it in a far outsized proportion to their realistic chances? There is no reason to create this sort of fear," Becker wrote.

The news report also tells us that the offending post was removed and a public online apology made by Becker. In part, his apology explains that his intent was to raise questions about activism and social media efforts when it comes to addressing disease--which are not always successful.

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Apparently, however, his explanation of intent and apology is not enough for some supporters of the Bald Cancer Barbie doll.

“He does not know who he messed with,” a commenter named Mindy wrote. “An apology on their blog is not enough. We won’t stop until there is equity in funding for childhood cancer, and this man has a new job!”

What makes this newsworthy in health is not so much as to whether or not there should be a Bald Barbie, but rather whether the power of social media is being abused by some people who have discovered a new-found power and influence at the click of a mouse.

If all of the supporters of Bald Cancer Barbie jump on the bandwagon of saying, “Let’s Get Becker Fired,” is this not a shameful act that speaks more about personal vendetta than about what is good for our children?

Mr. Becker’s original post is still available along with his apology to the public. In it he explains his reservations and questioning of the value a Bald Barbie poses toward meeting some of its goals. Due to his job, Mr. Becker obviously has access and experience regarding cancer and funding far above that of the average person. However, just because some disagree with what he has to say, does that mean he should lose his livelihood for it?

Social media has done a lot of good for raising awareness of health issues for patients with conditions that sometimes get less attention and funding than they deserve. However, at what cost? Is it okay to destroy a life to save a life…or soothe bruised feelings? What of free speech?

After this is all done and over, will anyone demand an “Unemployment Ken” doll as well? It’s something to think about. If Bald Cancer Barbie is to remain a symbol of hope and inspiration rather than shame, let’s not lose our focus - the children.

Image Source: Courtesy of MorgueFile