Tuesday, March 18, 2014
"Oh, say it ain't so, Juliette Gordon Low!"
One has to wonder what the legendary founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA would think about the new strategic partnership her organization has forged with Mattel.
Years (and years) ago, I was a Brownie and then a Junior back in New York City. I loved it. The uniform, the handbook, the field trips.
Being a type-A child with a rather compulsive streak, I particularly enjoyed earning merit badges. It wasn't easy to qualify for some of the more outdoorsy ones (they don't actually allow you to camp overnight in Central Park), but the academic ones, the artsy ones, even the community service ones ... mine, mine, mine. The troop leaders finally issued an edict (in my honor) that we could only earn one badge a week. Nevertheless, my sash was damned impressive.
When my now teen daughter started elementary school, I was tempted to sign her up for the Girl Scouts too. I didn't, partly because of our schedule (my husband and I were both working in Boston at the time, 45-75 minutes away depending on traffic). But, mainly because my would-be Daisy Scout showed no interest. None whatsoever.
Despite giving my offspring a pass, I've always admired the Girl Scouts. The aforementioned founder, Juliette Low, was a remarkable woman and well ahead of her time. Not only did she create an organization that allowed girls the same opportunities for recreation and self-reliance as boys, but she also promoted business skills. Girl Scout cookies were a smart way to raise funds for troop activities. But, more importantly, it helped girls understand how to manufacture and sell something. Low had faced her own economic hardships when her marriage dissolved, and she was determined that girls learn how to earn and manage their own money.
So, what does Barbie bring to the party? Let's see, there's the ideal — if impossible — figure and associated eating disorders. There's the glamour, the wardrobe, the hair and the make-up. Then, there's all those fabulous careers! Or, as Alexandra (nice name!) Petri decried in The Washington Post: "You can be anything (as long as it's pink!)."
Barbie is big business with a capital B; the Barbie brand is worth an estimated $3 billion. But, the Girls Scouts aren't exactly twiddling their thumbs. According to the organization's website, "The $790 million Girl Scout Cookie Program is the largest girl-led business in the country and generates immeasurable benefits for girls, their councils and communities nationwide."
It's all about empowering girls? Yeah, maybe.
Really, it's all about the money.
This is a blatantly commercial partnership, and I assume the powers that be at both organizations see it as a "win-win." Mattel has access to a captive market of girls, tweens and teens — a serious (trust me!) consumer segment. And, obviously, the Girl Scouts get much needed revenue. So, everybody's happy. The only losers may be the girls themselves.
But, maybe the news isn't all bad. Going forward, the Girl Scouts will have a chance to earn a special Mattel-sponsored badge: the "Be Anything, Do Everything!" patch. The color?
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