The Barbie Patch

at 12:35 AM

When I turned 11, Barbie was born -- the doll version of women I saw on television: fashionable, eternally well-coiffed, cosmetically perfect.

Barbie had the allure of a romantic life -- out of reach but wistfully desired. Barbie never needed to "go anywhere" since her fashion alone seemed to jump-start her great adventures.

At the same time, I belonged to my local Girl Scout troop, working on badges familiar to the '50s: cooking, sewing and dancing come to mind. On the cusp of feminism's dawn, I hadn't heard of entrepreneurship or the word "Ms."

As I entered adolescence, I was peripherally aware of a Barbie whose fashions evolved to reflect First Ladies like Jackie or Title IX athletes, but her changes were mired in style, not substance. My dwindling Girl Scout troop began to talk more about Simone de Beauvoir and less about cookies.

I went on to college packing up Barbie and my Girl Scout uniform; different groups filled my life. I walked forward, without stilettos, joining other women who knew that we needed equal pay, and that more women needed encouragement to pursue careers in science and math; change was more than purchasing an astronaut outfit for Barbie.

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So it was with a bit of curiosity that I learned that The Mattel Toy Company and the Girl Scouts' 2013 partnership has resulted in a just-released Girl Scout Barbie. I unpacked old images of Barbie and the Girl Scouts -- the fashionista and the "be prepared" -- an unlikely duo.

While there has been vocal pushback from many about the corporate partnership for Juliette Gordon Low's 102-year-old Girl Scouts with Barbie, I see the new Barbie "participation patch" -- "Be Anything, Do Everything" -- as a step toward the "great unfinished business of the 20th century -- the rights and opportunities for girls." Not only can it be earned without purchasing a Barbie, but it also requires completing a career inventory and asks the question "Who might you become?"

The Barbie Girl Scout patch helps focus girls on possibilities and dreams, none of which should have ceilings, none relating to her wardrobe. For that, I'll look beyond Barbie's small waist, readily.

With a Perspective, I'm Barbara Simmons.

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Barbara Simmons is a former director of college counseling at Notre Dame High School and is currently an independent college counselor and writer living in San Jose.

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