A note from Jeff Morosoff: Hofstra Honors College students in my PR fundamentals class are required to submit guest blog posts throughout the semester. The following was written by Areanna Rufrano:
Not many feminists would say that Barbie dolls are the image of female empowerment, especially after a popular Mattel Barbie book series created some controversy regarding sexism in the workplace. In a society that is fully aware of the growing feminist movement, it is evident that the Mattel company would face a major PR crisis for this recent outrage.
The source of this offense is found in the story line of the “I Can Be” Barbie book series. Barbie: I Can Be A Computer Engineer features the iconic doll struggling to fix her computer after it becomes corrupt with a virus. Instead of being the female empowered individual she strives to be, she has to resort to the help of two male computer engineers. One of those male characters even states, “It will go faster if Brain and I help,” which many people thought insinuated males are more skillful than women.
Even though the book was published in 2010, author Pamela Ribon recently denounced the book on her website which started the heated concerns across the Internet. As a result, Mattel pulled the book from Amazon and issued an apology, saying, “The portrayal of Barbie in this specific story doesn’t reflect the Brand’s vision for what Barbie stands for.”
This is not the first time Mattel and other doll manufacturing companies have encountered this type of issue. While pulling the condemned product from stores and giving an apology are good ways to manage a PR crisis, it shouldn’t stop there. The Mattel company should take more public relations action to effectively advocate feminism and to illustrate their sincere support. Your thoughts?