Scouts Face Increasing Criticism for Policies, Partnerships Deemed Off-Brand

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The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America seem like they would be the perfect all-American brands, but the children’s service organizatons have had their fair share of controversy. 

In a continuation of the gay rights saga surrounding the Boy Scouts, Walt Disney recently announced that it would cut funding to the organization due to its policies surrounding openly-gay Scout leaders. While the company doesn’t donate funds directly to the organization, the company said it would “stop allowing employees to do volunteer work through Disney’s VoluntEARS program in exchange for cash donations to the Boy Scouts of America,” according to Time.

The national organization voted last year to allow openly gay youths but decided to keep its ban on openly gay leaders intact. Other major brand sponsors, including Lockheed Martin, Chipotle, Merck and UPS have stopped funding the organization as a result. 

The Girl Scouts, on the other hand, are also having a bit of an image issue as the organization looks to put its brand in front of more children. The group struck a deal last year with Mattel for a Girl Scouts-themed Barbie doll, including a related patch, booklet and website.[more]

But children’s marketing advocates, including Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and Center for a New American Dream, aren’t too keen on the partnership, especially since Barbie’s own identity has been the subject of much social debate lately. The groups have been in talks with the organization and company since last summer, but with no change in plans, they have decided to take their concerns public. 

“Holding Barbie, the quintessential fashion doll, up as a role model for Girl Scouts simultaneously sexualizes young girls, idealizes an impossible body type and undermines the Girl Scouts’ vital mission,” said Susan Linn, director of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, according to USA Today.

The issue was compounded by Barbie’s recent appearance in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition—a publication known for its sexualized content. It “really drives home how inappropriate the brand is as a model for young girls, particularly by an organization which is so respected as a leader in promoting girls’ healthy development,” Linn said. 

The website, booklet, and patch all relate to a Barbie-themed “I Can Be Anything!” program that “teaches girls about inspiring women in a fun way,” said spokeswoman Kelly Parisi, USA Today reports. Barbie, of course, has held around 150 different jobs in her lifetime, according to ABC News. The dolls will be available late this summer after being announced at this year’s International Toy Fair 

Barbie may have had all those jobs, but new research recently published in the academic journal Sex Roles, shows that girls who play with Barbie, whether she is dressed up as a doctor or as a fashion model, predict they’ll have fewer career options when they get older than girls who played with the far more neutral Mrs. Potato Head. The latter group “reported nearly as many career options available for themselves as for boys,” UPI reports.

Concerned parents might want to take a look at the viral rendering of “Real Barbie” which was constructed based on the body specifications of an average 19-year-old American young woman. According to Quartz, production of the doll is being crowdfunded and it is expected to ship later this year.

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