Barbie Talks Back

By Fitzgerald, Sean M. | The Humanist, July-August 1997 | Go to article overview

Barbie Talks Back


Fitzgerald, Sean M., The Humanist


In keeping with the policy of The Humanist to accommodate the diverse social, political, and philosophical viewpoints of its readers, this occasional feature allows for the expression of alternative and opposing views on issues previously raised within these pages.

Editor's note: The controversy over sweatshop conditions and the use of child labor in many Third World factories, where First World products are made, has generated news reports and editorials in both the mainstream and alternative media. But now a major corporation responds, making possible a deeper exploration of facts and values--and a hopeful beginning for a dialogue toward resolution.

We were deeply disturbed by the blatantly inaccurate portrayal of the working conditions at one of our contractor facilities described by Anton Foek in your January/February 1997 issue. Not only was the information a gross misrepresentation of the Dynamic factory's current work environment, but it was simply untrue.

Mattel does not currency, nor has it ever, manufactured Barbie[R] dolls at the Dynamic plant in Bangkok.

The third basic principle of the humanist philosophy states that 'we are committed to the position that the only thing that can be called knowledge is that which is firmly grounded in the realm of human understanding and verification." Since Mr. Foek never contacted us to verify any of the allegations in the story, never spoke to sources in Thailand who may have provided a different perspective, or ever bothered to verify a fact as mundane as the types of products manufactured at Dynamic, we can only assume that his commitment to verification was temporarily misplaced. On the other hand, there may have been a concern on his part that the truth may have simply derailed a good story.

If Mr. Foek had actually visited the plant as he claims, he would most certainly have discovered the glaring inaccuracy upon which his entire story was based. How could he possibly have seen "hundreds of women and children stuffing, cutting, dressing, and assembling Barbie dolls" in a factory that has never been responsible for the manufacture of that product?

The charges raised by Mr. Foek concerning working conditions reflect those made by other individuals six years ago. At that time, Mattel immediately investigated the Dynamic facility and found that, while certain safety procedures were not being followed as closely as we would have liked, all other allegations were found to be completely without basis. (Safety procedures have since been updated.) And without question, the allegations of work-related illness and worker fatalities at the Dynamic facility are at best fictional and at worst slanderous. …

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