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Of The ‘Bald Barbie’, Fight Against Cancer And Stigma Attached With Being A Bald Woman

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By Anannya Roy Chowdhury:

I’m a Barbie Girl…in my Barbie world
Life in plastic, it’s fantastic!
You can brush my HAIR…
And even if I am Bald, will you love me any less?

A few days back, something on the internet portal caught my eye. No it was not another political scam and neither was Robert Pattinson in town, it was something surreally assuring. The recent declaration by Mattel Inc. about their latest entry to the world of Barbie, the Bald Barbie was certainly big news.

Coming straight to what I read, it was no less a sigh of relief for me (you might as well call me silly in doing that) but the news was certainly positive. All my life and why just me, I can blindly aim at any girl and the target would never miss, all of us have wanted hairs like those skinny dolls known by the world today as Barbie, irrespective of whatever age we count! I am not too sure if I making this an equally engaging read for the boys, or boys-at-hearts, but the write up that follows will surely bag a more unisex audience.

The decision to turn the style icon of a girl child’s world BALD

In the wake of the current year, a series of events that transpired over the internet brewed a major decision for Barbie and her friends. In response to a social campaign started by Beckie Sypin for the cause of bald women and children who lost their hair for more than one medical condition, Mattel decided to turn its trademark mascot, the Barbie into the campaign icon.

There was certainly no doubt about this decision that came up univocally; although it did pose a little hitch initially (it was a marketing strategy that was debated and not the very idea) because history is testimony to the countless instances when Barbie, from its image of a spic and span fashionista had metamorphosed into Army women, Black ideals, special Barbie, political figures and many more. This time, even when this friend of Barbie is losing her ever-so-sought after Hair, it is sure to spread a billion smiles!

The campaign that sprung up from a Facebook information page, https://www.facebook.com/BeautifulandBaldBarbie started by Sypin, mother of a girl who lost her hair owning to chemotherapy and her friend and renowned photographer Jane Bingham (a sufferer herself) has taken a highly desired turn today with 1,59,278 likes. Following their request made to Mattel in an email, the company decided to work for this much needed cause and this is precisely how, the bald and beautiful Barbie came into existence. It is likely that the distribution of these bald dolls in Canada and USA begins in 2013 and it is also decided that a good donation of these would go the National Alopecia Areata Foundation to help the little patients cope with this strong sense of loss.

The various reasons and stigmas related to being BALD

Well, you might as well scoff at me saying, “Oh! Come on now, who would like to not flaunt those to-die- for strands of protein?” Especially in a setting where First impressions last forever (I do intend the pun here)… how a girl wears her hair is of the utmost importance to… well here is the catch, to the world more, than to herself!

Maybe this write up is turning into more an informal blog than any informational article, but to ask a girl to write about her favourite part of the body, is certainly inviting trouble! However, my sole intension in bringing these gargantuan volumes of what they call ‘a girl’s obsession with her hair’ is in the plain light, an effort to make all of us understand what it feels when, for no mistake of yours (well in most cases), you are forcibly made to part with it. Some of the most common causes that led to complete hair loss in men and women are listed below:

  • Cancer: Well, not the condition itself but the related chemical treatment does rob off your hair.
  • Alopecia: A medical condition, mainly hereditary that triggers the irreversible process of hair loss in both men and women.
  • Trichotillomania: Another medical condition trailing off the process of irreversible loss of hair.

Not just these there are many more that are dreaded enemies of your beautiful strands and hence, rob you off them forever, leaving behind a scarred self-respect.

This brings us to the more immaterial aspect of losing hair, the connection it has with the way we feel about ourselves. It is more a rule than any exception in today’s world that we let down our potentials on filmy grounds and the cherry on the cake is the way the society takes advantage of it. STIGMA, this six letter word says a lot in itself and no matter how modern we dress our tongue, deep in our minds, we do endorse some or the other form of it.

Be it the question at hand, baldness or other similar ones, acceptance to anything that is wild (the Mendelian term for being wayward), is the last thing that we see now. Today a bald girl crossing the road… tomorrow someone with a defamed nose approaches us… or better still someone with an ugly scar traversing the expanse of her face comes affront us, most of us (please be truthful in judging yourself) will squint.

This is so much a part of the society today that we hardly realize that we, maybe unknowingly are lending our bit in making discrimination a bigger monster! The way things are getting out of hand, it is not surprising that people who unluckily have been dupes in the game called LIFE actually lose it because we, the so-called BEAUTIFUL people fail to realize that it is not by choice but by chance that they are at the receiving end… it could have well been one of us!

Being BALD is certainly being Beautiful today; the various pluses of not having hair!

Having talked in detail about the negative aspects associated with being bald (although totally baseless and purgatory); let us look at the brighter shades of it. I am sure after reading this part, atleast some of us will definitely take a lot less time in attending our hair and might just decide to be BALD and Beautiful!

  • Showers would be a lot less complicated without having to shampoo them!
  • Just imagine the savings we would have without the monthly visits to a parlour! (Pheww! That’s such a boost)
  • No more of out-of-their minds teachers tugging at your hair while scolding you or the perils of having tresses during a cat fight!
  • With no hairs to fall, the eternal dilemma we face about hair loss would be gone forever! Now, don’t you think that is the most ingenious response to falling hairs??
  • NO MORE BAD HAIR DAYS!!!! Now am sure, this last point is sure to bring a big grin onto our faces, irrespective of us being girls or guys!
Lisa Ray, during her fight against cancer

Some of our most revered celebs have proven themselves on and off the screen with their bold step to go all HAIRLESS! Be it Cameron Diaz, Jaime Winston, Natalie Portman, Demi Moore or the likes of Magic Johnson, Bruce Willis, and Seal and back home Nandita Sen, all have posed an all bald look to support the cause and remove the taboo and distraught that such women, men and children have to face.

The world, in this era is changing, and changing for the good… and in her small but affirmatory gesture, Barbie tells us that it is not keratin on your scalp that matters, but grey matter inside it that hails to you a successful life! With your favourite childhood toy (a lot more for many of us) smiling, even without her shinny Rapunzel tresses, it is high time that we remove the veil of ignorance and with it any scarf or wig that hides our hairless heads.

With hopes to have struck atleast a few chords, signing off… BE BALD… BE BEAUTIFUL

You must be to comment.
  1. Mmrityunjay nanda

    Well. the topic caught my attention too.
    But I would have written it in reversed flavor . 🙂 Still good one .

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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