Industry News | October 17, 2007

Parents Group Scolds McD's for 'Selling Sex'

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The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) is demanding that McDonald’s immediately end what it calls its "highly sexualized" My Scene Barbie Happy Meal promotion featuring "ludicrously proportioned" Barbies with micro miniskirts, halter tops, and rollerblades.

“It’s bad enough that McDonald’s continues to use toys to sell kids on junk food,” says CCFC’s director, Dr. Susan Linn, a psychologist at Judge Baker Children’s Center. “But to lure young girls to its restaurants by promoting the worst sexualized stereotypes is reprehensible.”

The McDonald’s Barbie promotion runs through October 28. McDonald’s is giving away four Barbies and four sets of Barbie bracelets during the four-week promotion.

“It’s ironic that McDonald’s is using an impossibly thin doll as an incentive for girls to visit their restaurants twice-a-week,” Linn says.

In response to concerns about childhood obesity, McDonald’s has moved to position itself as a socially responsible marketer. In June, as part of the food industry’s efforts to ward off regulation, the fast-food giant pledged to change its marketing practices and to produce advertising that includes “healthy lifestyle messages” for children.

“Putting rollerblades on Barbie doesn’t make it healthy messaging,” says CCFC’s Dr. Diane Levin, professor of education at Wheelock College and co-author of the forthcoming So Sexy So Soon. “These dolls send a host of harmful messages about play, appearance, sexuality, and what it means to be a young girl.”

In an effort to reposition itself as a family-friendly company, McDonald’s has enlisted a Global Moms Panel to “provide input and guidance on a broad range of topics,” including “restaurant communications and children’s well-being.”

“Parents all over the world are concerned about the sexualization of little girls,” Linn says. “We hope that the Global Mom’s Panel will consider the well-being of their daughters, and other people’s daughters, by joining us in urging McDonald’s to end its exploitative Barbie promotion.”

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is a national coalition of health care professionals, educators, advocacy groups, and concerned parents who counter the harmful effects of marketing to children.