Aug. 27, 2012 at 4:25 PM ET
Earlier this year, after the The Beautiful and Bald Movement started a Facebook petition urging Mattel to produce a bald Barbie doll to reduce the stigma of hair loss from cancer treatment or other diseases, the toy company said it planned a one-time run of 10,000 bald "friend of Barbie" dolls which would not be sold in stores, but instead distributed through children's hospitals, the National Alopecia Areata Foundation and CureSearch, the children's cancer foundation, starting in late 2012 or early 2013.
That seemed like a victory for cancer survivor survivor Jane Bingham, founder of the Beautiful and Bald Movement. But recently the Vatican daily newspaper L'Osservatore Romano revived the controversy in an article asking, “Why is there no trace in the real world of this lineup of politically and educationally correct dolls?'”
Bingham, who met with Mattel after the Facebook petition gained national attention (and more than 157,000 supporters), agreed. She’s concerned sick children may get muscled aside by avid Barbie collectors if the dolls don't find their way to store shelves.
"We would love to see these dolls on the shelves," she says. "It's a big part of our campaign to raise awareness about different types of hair loss. It's considered trendy and sexy for men to be bald, but for women, there's shame to it. There's a stigma that we shouldn't be seen in public, that we're supposed to cover ourselves. And children are teased."
By manufacturing a limited run, it’s less likely that children will actually get their hands on the Barbies, Bingham speculates. And even if sick children do receive the dolls, Bingham says she's concerned that parents saddled with extremely high medical bills may sell the limited edition dolls to the highest bidder. Or keep the bald dolls in their original packaging, out of the child's reach.
"It would be like giving a child a $2,000 to $3,000 doll to play with," she says.
She also adds that privately distributing the bald "friend of Barbie" doll wouldn't help kids whose mothers or sisters or grandmothers suffer from hair loss due to disease.
"My daughter's not sick -- I'm the one with cancer," says Bingham, who was diagnosed with follicular non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a common form of the disease, five years ago. "It would be wonderful to have children with a family member dealing with hair loss to have access to these dolls."
Meanwhile, there are bald dolls on the market.
MGA Entertainment has already produced and distributed a new line of True Hope Bratz and Moxie dolls, all without hair. The dolls are available now at Target, Walmart and Toys ”R” Us.
"My daughter has six of these and she plays with them every day," says Bingham. "But some people just want Barbie. She's the icon of beauty in the toy industry."
Mattel, producer of Barbie and the forthcoming limited edition bald "friend of Barbie," could not be reached for a comment.
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