Developers are in the process building a 26,900 square foot, interactive, mostly completely pink Barbie Dreamhouse For Humans in Berlin. If you were the Barbie type, this is probably your childhood dream come true. If you were the anti-Barbie type, then fear not! Because the Dreamhouse gives life to all dreams. Your anarcho-feminist childhood fantasy of fucking shit up at Barbie's mansion has also been given life: German feminists are planning an "Occupy Barbie Dreamhouse" protest at the grand opening of the shrine to traditional girlhood, on May 16.
From the Barbie Dreamhouse's official website:
[A] number of thrilling, interactive and unexpected activities await: the chance to try on the style icon’s hip outfits using a digital mirror in her walk-in wardrobe for example, or concocting a virtual cupcake in the Barbie™ Dreamhouse® kitchen!
Awaiting the guests are areas for styling and make-up, as well as the Barbie™ Fashion Runway and Pop Star Stage.
Everyone knows that "virtual cupcakes" are the best thing to "eat" before setting foot on a Barbie Fashion Runway. Classic Barbie™, promoting healthy body image in young women.
“For 22 euros ($29), you can have two careers — model or pop star! What kind of image is that presenting to young women?” wonders Michael Koschitzki, the proudly feminist male leader of the Dreamhouse opponents.
In response, a spokeswoman from Mattel Germany said, "Barbie has again become a tool for some to advance their own agenda."
And, certainly, the Occupy Barbie Dreamhouse organization has a far-reaching agenda. From their Facebook page:
We call for:
→ No to Barbie Dream House. For diversity in child rearing and free activities instead of pink mush and stereotypes!
→ For an outcry against discrimination of women. Equal pay for equal work for and against discrimination of women in working life, against the special burden of women with domestic and care work against misogynistic advertising and media articles.
→ No to low-wage and precarious employment! A majority of the jobs in the low-wage sector is done by women.
→ For joint resistance against sexism. The problem is not individual but social. As long as capitalism benefits from the fact that women earn less and do housework, there is an interest in the discrimination of women. Only organized and together we can defend ourselves against it.
What does that have to do with Barbie Dream House? According to the organization, the Barbie Dreamhouse harmfully represents domesticity as an integral part of femininity, and once that "cliché role is strengthened in childhood, [it] runs through the whole life."
Although it's questionable that protesting outside of a pink tourist destination will do much to affect any of these changes, it's always admirable to raise awareness of the ways in which gender-specific toys reflect and reinforce limiting social expectations. Even the "career oriented" Barbie products touted by Mattel as an empowering alternative tend to be rather superficial and appearance-oriented (obviously, because Barbie is a fashion doll) — more along the lines of "let's play dress up as a cool and sexy doctor" than "here, girl-child, I will foster your interest in STEM from a young age." As an enterprising youth, I myself purchased a "Working Woman Barbie" computer game and was very excited because, in my 7-year-old mind, I thought it would be some sort of proto-version Lean In: The Video Game. I was itching to engage in some corporate intrigue. To my disappointment, though, the game consisted of designing stationery and, like, putting on fashion blazers — which I still don't understand how to wear, so thanks for nothing, Mattel.