Social Media 101: My Barbie Mea Culpa

Five days ago I wrote a post about the bald Barbie facebook page that had been crossing my feed quite a bit in the two weeks prior to that.  As the mom of a girl who died of cancer, lots of folks assumed I would be interested. That was a safe assumption.  Receiving those posts from friends and readers didn’t annoy me — it was clear that folks thought I would appreciate the idea.

What did annoy me was the idea itself.  Barbie is an icon of unattainable and unhealthy ideals of beauty and she becoming a plastic symbol now preaching acceptance of young girls like my daughter made my stomach turn.  YES, children with cancer need acceptance and support, but I stand firm that they need research more.  Dolls are great and can be therapeutic.  I get it.  But one in five of the girls diagnosed with cancer will die.  Their parents and families will forever mourn their passing.  Much in the same way that plastic Barbie  dolls will forever clog our landfills.

So I wrote about it.  Sitting in my pajamas, click clacking away on my lap top, Mary Tyler Son blessedly occupied with new Christmas and birthday gifts, I wrote about it.  Me, a computer, a sofa.

I opted to use an image in the post that is the facebook avatar of one of the groups promoting the idea of the bald Barbie — there were several groups when I wrote the post.  Within an hour or so, the administrator of the page somehow became alerted to my blog and wrote several comments.  Her tone was respectful, though her arguments, in my humble estimation, were weak.  At the time of my post, the page had approximately 5K facebook likes.  There was some excitement on Day 1, as the administrator of the page linked to it on her bald Barbie page, calling it “negative” and “against our cause.”

Early on Day 2, I heard from a childhood friend, a local news anchor, that my Barbie v. Cancer post had been picked up by Jeff Crilley’s Rundown. What’s Jeff Crilley’s Rundown, you ask?  Yeah, I had to Google it, too.   Apparently, Jeff Crilley is a pretty powerful guy.  Another friend referred to him as the “Faith Popcorn of trending and emerging topics.”

Crilley runs a PR shop, all journalists, all the time.  He publishes a daily “Rundown,” a subscription service that offers story suggestions for journalists around the country of trending topics.  Mr. Crilley, somehow, probably because of the healthy traffic that was generated, listed my Barbie v. Cancer post as a story to watch and cover.

By Tuesday night, several small media outlets around the country started running stories about the call for a bald Barbie to raise acceptance for girls with cancer and other illnesses that result in hair loss.  One gal (I can’t bring myself to call her a journalist) in Salt Lake City identified me as the “leader of the anti-bald Barbie movement.”  Really? Huh.  A movement?  And here I thought it was just me in my jammies on the living room sofa expressing an opinion.

Tuesday night is when things started getting heated.  More stories started appearing.  All referenced the bald Barbie facebook page that I had featured.  Their numbers started exploding.  The bald Barbie pages I did not feature saw no change.  Flatline.  Threads on the featured page became so heated that folks championing “the cause,” as it is so ridiculously referred to, started advocating that folks who disagreed with the manufacture and marketing of a bald Barbie should be shot.  Wow.  Yeah, that is when I promised Mary Tyler Dad I would make my exit from visiting that page anymore.

By Wednesday, Day 3, bald Barbie was national news.  God bless the Huffington Post who ran a story where I was referenced as Mary Tyler Mom with a link, rather than “one blogger.”  As Tuesday’s stories made minimal reference to there being an opposing view to the bald Barbie, I started to see the irony of the situation.  Here I was — one mom, one lap top, one pair of pajamas, one sofa — influencing national news.  And with kind of, sort of the opposite effect I was hoping for (though I love all the discussion of pediatric cancer, even if it is sanitized and romanticized).  Oops.

Turns out, America loves herself a Barbie.  Even a bald one.  The bald Barbie facebook page I featured now has over 110K likes.  In four days. Posted by one of their administrators a couple of hours ago:

Okay I am trying not to slam people’s facebook pages with clutter. However, we have been getting complaints about people’s posts. I will say this we love our supporters and hope our growth can keep up. However we grew to over 111,000 in 4 days! We all have families, and some full time jobs. We are not able to catch everything immediately. If someone is completely rude and ridiculous hit the reportbutton to Facebook. Please just contact us if we do not see it. In the last 4 days we have had many media requests internationally and nationally. So it has been very overwhelming to us all how fast this has grown. This has been a more than full time job for all the administrators involved, so please be patient with our growing pains. Thank you for your patience.

As I feared, the original intent of the bald Barbie — raising awareness for childhood cancer and other illnesses that result in girls losing their hair — has been swallowed by the pink breast cancer movement.  Many of the folks responding to this idea, and they are now all over the world, are women who have been affected by breast cancer.  Many more are calling for proceeds to be donated to the Susan G. Komen (I would add “for the cure”, but I’m pretty certain they would slap a lawsuit on my ass if I did that, so I won’t) foundation. I had a hunch that would happen when I first posted on Monday and it brings me no pleasure.

So, you’re welcome, bald Barbie “cause.”  I did you a solid.  And I learned a lesson.  One mom with a laptop and an opinion is a mighty powerful force. Word.


16 Replies to “Social Media 101: My Barbie Mea Culpa”

  1. If it makes you feel better…I used to give all of my sisters Barbie dolls mohawks and thought they looked much better, more liberated.

    Come to think of it, this may explain my thing for roller derby…


  2. SGK can suck a big one. Anyone who misuses funds like they do deserves nothing more going their way. Its just unfortunate that they think they deserve every single cancer related penny and people don’t know enough to realize that they don’t and that they would be better off sending their money elsewhere. SGK already has a Barbie. They don’t need another. The fact that they’ve become so big that they can influence a toy company like Mattel shows nothing more than the fact that they’re too big for their own, or anyone else’s, good.

    Btw, Kim Fischer, Salt Lake City “journalist” has not only taken down the link to your blog post, she has also deleted all of the posts referencing Barbie, you, and her so-called journalistic education off her page.


  3. I am not a big of SGK. They care more about raising money to host bigger events to raise more money to host even bigger events to raise…well you get the idea – than they care about actually finding a cure.

    Glad you stood your ground. I wish and hope for a cure so parents do not have to go through what you want to go through. If I thought mass producing a Barbie without hair would help your cause, I would sign any petition I could. However, I agree with you. Producing a bald Barbie is just going to help Mattel make more money and will not nothing to further research or finding a cure.


    1. Hello, blogger pal! Thanks for reading, Arkie Lad, and for your support. You should join the gals over on the MTM facebook page tonight for Golden Globes snark. My guess is you’ve got some snark in you, too. Just a guess, though. MTM.


      1. I will be checking in; however, I absolutely cannot miss Once Upon A Time. That is my show. I know I could DVR it, but what kind of fan would I be if I did that. Also, me snarky? NEVER! I am a saint I tell you!


  4. As an administrator on this page, I do see how this could turn into a turn it pink campaign. I really do not wish for that and many of the suggestions to turning it pink or giving to Susan G Komen are addressed when I am able. This campaign is for the children, while we love that adults love the idea too. We hope to see something going to childhood cancer research of even the UCLA Mattel Chidlren’s Hospital as they do wonderful things there also. I thank you for while not agreeing with our cause, being respectful when speaking of us. Also, I do agree, one mom with a laptop and opinion can be a very powerful thing.


    1. Hi, Beckie. Speaking of moving mountains, you and your gals have done that this week. I wish you luck and endurance for all the media attention you have been fielding.

      And I DO appreciate any mention you make of pediatric cancer in your interviews. While we have different methods, we both understand the importance of supporting children with cancer.

      Kraft och omtanke to you.


  5. Mass hysteria amongst women is not uncommon. Bald Barbie hysterics, which leave one desperately seeking escape from the asylum known as Middle America, is a surreal Munch nightmare that cannot be fully appreciated until one wakes up. As Barbie says “Irrationality is the treasured possession of a woman.”
    “Dead right” says Ken.


  6. I applaud you for standing up for what you believe, I also think a lot of people tend to jump on the bandwagon just because it seems popular,
    I dont think a bald barbie would make us any more aware of CANCER, we all know about it ,on many different levels some of us see it on the news or face book, some have lost or losing some one to it some are fighting the battle with it. as i type this post, but I believe we are all aware of it,
    I think a bald barbie would be more for the child and that is why i support it.
    You said:
    ” Barbie is an icon of unattainable and unhealthy ideals of beauty ”
    That is the way adults see her, children they see her as beautiful and fancy and as a friend, I know that’s how I saw her when I was a girl, she was the one true friend that was there to help me cope with my parents divorce she was some one to listen to me as I cried and she was there with out complaint as i played out the dreams of my future. & it wasn’t until I was a grown woman did I truly see her as unattainable, but by that time I didn’t need her anymore…. so what my hope is for the bald barbie would be to help little girls get over the HUMP of what ever their crisis is,.
    in this harsh world where kids get cancer and die, maybe they deserve a little fantasy play to help them cope and get through a day.


  7. I guess in the end, whether a bald Barbie or not happens, I hope this will not just increase traffic on blogs and the like, but the research donations page as well. Well done MTM!

    PS: I do get a little unnerved about how it seems like the tendency in journalism currently is everyone has to be “right” or “wrong” these days. (For example the “should be shot” comment.) That is why I like your blog MTM. You seem to be able to do the exact opposite and evoke real discussion, not just name calling. Just call me a MTM groupie!


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