Originally Appeared in Unit Circle #3

Associated Press Writer

When 7-year-old Zachariah Zelin ripped off the Christmas wrapping, he
squealed with delight. Santa brought the talking G.I. Joe doll he wanted.
Problem was, Joe talked like Barbie.

His doll stands at the ready in its Army fatigues, machine gun and hand
grenades at its side. But it says things like, "Want to go shopping?"

The BLO has claimed responsibility. That's Barbie Liberation Organization.

Made up of more than 50 concerned parents, feminists and other activists,
the BLO claims to have surreptitiously switched the voice boxes on 300 G.I. Joe
and Barbie dolls across the United States this holiday season.

"We have operatives all over the country," said one BLO member, who wished
to remain anonymous. "Our goal is to reveal and correct the problem of gender-
based stereotyping in children's toys."

Among the messages the tampered G.I. Joe utters are, "I love school. Don't
you?" and "Let's sing with the band tonight."

In a deep voice, the altered Barbie says, among other things, "Dead men tell no

The BLO claims a few other doll voices were reversed in Canada, France and
England. The group contends Barbie teaches sexism and passivity in girls, and
G.I. Joe influences boys to act violently.

A spokesman for Hasbro Inc., the maker of G.I. Joe, called the BLO's attack

"This will move us to have a good laugh and go on making more G.I. Joes," said
Wayne Charness of the Pawtucket, R.I.-based toymaker. "Barbie dolls and G.I.
Joes are part of American culture."

A spokeswoman for Barbie's creator, Mattel Inc. of El Segundo, would say only
that no consumers have complained.

When Zachariah was asked whether he wanted Santa to take back the feminine Joe,
he responded sharply, "No way."

"I love him. I like everything about him," he said as he and three neighborhood
friends played with the doll. "He's teaching me not to fight."

His parents are thrilled, too. Although Zachariah has water guns, his  parents
say they oppose violent toys and were unwilling to buy the G.I. Joe.

The doll was Zachariah's grandparents' idea. The parents were shocked, but
tickled, when the doll turned out the way it did.

Zachariah's parents said they are not part of the BLO, and had never heard of it.

"I think it really became an educational toy. I'm really happy it worked out
this way," said Zachariah's mother, Susan Orlofsky. "Our job is to help him
understand so that he doesn't think he has to be a soldier. I think it's amazing."

Unit Circle Non-Fiction