Many Sides to Bald Barbie

Who would’ve thought Barbie could rise to the pinnacle of cancer politics? And still climbing. In a country in which approximately 12,400 children are diagnosed with cancer each year (and the number keeps climbing), I can see why the topic of childhood cancer could and would touch on raw emotions. It’s taken me some reflecting though to grasp how a Bald Barbie doll can come to hold the torch for that emotional eruption, especially when she has yet to even exist.

Apparently someone (a man no less) at the American Cancer Society weighed in and so fueled the eruption that we late-comers cannot even view his contribution. The ACS has withdrawn the post and the author has replaced it with what amounts to an apology. The comments are still there, however, and judging by them, I get the sense that this now-banished post had a good deal to do with Bald Barbie’s rapid rise to the pinnacle of cancer politics.

One of those comments gets right to the heart of Bald Barbie’s rise, expressing what I imagine is the crux of the emotional eruption that put Miss Bald Barbie in her new political position: “He does not know who he messed with,” a commenter named Mindy writes to the ACS blogger. “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!”

Childhood cancers are the leading cause of death by disease among children in the U.S., and yet only 3 percent of the National Cancer Institute’s research budget is allocated to childhood cancers (note the plurality of “cancers”). I’ve experienced so much pain and loss in my family at the dreaded hands of cancer and yet I cannot for a minute imagine the pain of losing a child to cancer. I can easily imagine though why the parents out there who have known this pain, known such loss, are looking for any means of waking the rest of us up to their pain and to the fact that there are way too many children getting cancer. Apparently the NCI and the pharmaceutical companies have other priorities, so if Barbie can help them (help us) to raise the funds to fund the research to develop the means that would stop cancer from taking our children, I say “I’ll take 3!”

And for the other voices out there who say, wait!!! This is about my child, not a petroleum-based cancer-contributing plastic mold destined for a landfill, I get that too. I want to know, WHY is cancer on the rise among our children? Mary Tyler Mom comes through crystal clear to me when she says, “Girls with cancer need a bald doll about as much as women with breast cancer need a pink Kitchen Aid mixer.” She has known the pain of watching her toddler daughter battle cancer, so I just have to honor her feelings too.

Cancer politics aside, and as an Alopecian, my first response to a Bald Barbie was and is, I want one!!! I’m an advocate for anything and everything that helps women and girls to self-identify as normal, feminine, and beautiful, without hair. Okay, so she’d lack hair and yet have an unattainable version of a feminine figure (not to mention long, lush eyelashes any Alopecian would die for), but hey, I’ll take a socially evolved Barbie in small steps.

Have you been paying attention to Bald Barbie’s pre-existence rise to fame? Are you pro-Bald Barbie, or con-Bald Barbie? Why?

Susan Beausang,

LymphomaInfo Social