girl scouts, barbie and impractical shoes

Girl Scout Barbie

She is not for me!

Speaking as a former girl scout who had a Barbie back in the day, I cringe when I see this. Maybe that’s how I’m supposed to feel, maybe that’s exactly what the marketing mash-up had in mind.

With no disrespect intended I will march on through this commentary, keep in mind I come from an active, outdoorsy, empowered girl history. My perspective includes the Title IV battles of the ’70s, the ERA marches of the ’80s, Roe v. Wade in the ’90s, and women eligible for combat in 2013, I’ll stop there.

Picture this, if you will…

    It’s time for the annual Girl Scout camping trip. The girls have spent months making their bunson burners and sit-upons. Some are expert fire builders, while some have talent building the flame. The bus doors open two hours before dusk, the troop has finally arrived at the much anticipated wilderness campsite. Each patrol has a duty, Barbie is in the ‘wood gathering’ group.
   Moments after setting out to look for kindling, the prong-like heels on her platform hiking shoes are hopelessly stuck in the soft mud. Embarrassed, she feverishly works to free them, only to find they continue to get sucked in with each step. Each time she needs to stop to free her feet, she becomes a target for hungry mosquitos, which begin to cover and devour her bare arms and exposed calves. She remembers her troop leader’s warning “bring bug repellent”, but she couldn’t fit it in her tiny carry-on bag. “Oh why oh why didn’t I bring my backpack?”
   Between the mosquitos and the mud, Barbie can’t really focus on finding or carrying the sticks she needs for her contribution to the fire. Besides that, her little arms are so skinny they tire easily and she really can’t carry that much wood.
    As dusk settles in, Barbie notices a chill in the air. It’s all she can do to hurry back to camp, hoping for a seat at the fire. Her legs are tired and sore from all the extra work pulling her heels out of the Earth. She wished she had brought a sweater or sweat shirt, but there was no room in her little bag.
    Later that evening,  as the rest of the girls are singing songs and eating s’mores while sitting around campfire, Barbie’s thinking about how miserable she is. Her “glamping” shoes are ruined, she has awful itchy bumps all over her arms and legs, her pretty pink capri’s are full of mud and grass stains, and she doesn’t eat s’mores because she tries really hard to wear a size zero in her pants. “This camping thing is soooo not for me! Never again, I hate it!”

Another helpless girl story. The foibles of shoes with heels worn at the inappropriate time, and the look of a bag more important than it’s function. Hmm-hmm. We are so helpless and clueless, but so darn cute in our pink pants and stupid little green pill puff hat! (really…what is the point of that hat? don’t even say sun protection!) Mattel! Would it have been so hard to conjure up a strong sensible Barbie for girls? Come on. We live in the time of Katniss Everdeen, Venus and Serena, Jillian Michaels, and Michelle Obama to name a few. There are CEO’s, helicopter pilots, homemakers, and maybe… a presidential candidate, all wearing the right shoes at the right time!

Couldn’t you have consulted with someone at a store like, I don’t know maybe…Title Nine Clothes, to come up with a sporty, feminine looking Barbie whose clothes and shoes were stylish, yet functional? I’m sorry Mattel, but there is no excuse. You really did miss an opportunity to be ‘hip and with it’ selling your notion of girls can BE whatever. Unfortunately, girls need to DO to BE. That’s where you lost it. Why portray a Barbie who will sprain her ankle walking up and down stairs in her neighborhood selling cookies, or walking dogs or helping the elderly in a nursing home?
My first Barbie wore this outfit…

Vintage Barbie Candy Striper Volunteer 889 1964 NRFP Mint | eBay
she was a candy striper, a hospital volunteer in the ’60s. They were called candy stripers because of the red and white stripes on their uniforms. Take a minute to look at her shoes, no heels, platforms or bling…yeah, they’re appropriate for moving around a hospital. If candy striper Barbie wore heels in this ensemble, little kid me would NOT have spent her hard earned baby sitting money on this outfit because I had enough sense to know – it would have been silly.

While searching the internet I came across this picture of some sensible Barbies – why couldn’t one of these girls have been your Girl Scout role model? Normal hats, sunglasses, no heels – all shoes seem perfectly practical. (Though I do think it would be OK to include a backpack and water bottle as accessories more reflective of the times!)

It’s time for Barbie and friends to go to work. Can you help them get ready for their busy days? Pick the tools they need and help Barbie and friends get the job done!
In closing, maybe all of this controversy is meant to tell Mattel “Welcome to the hard fought future… of and for girls and women!” Next time you roll out a Barbie, please do your homework, especially if you are pairing with an important, girl empowering organization like the Girl Scouts.
Oh! And by the way…we really do know what to shoes to wear when, no matter what age we are!

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