Berlin’s Barbie Dreamhouse is a pink feminist nightmare

by Marie Julien

AFP-JIJI

The opening this month of the first life-size Barbie Dreamhouse in Europe may be the fantasy of many a little girl, but Berlin’s feminists are mobilizing against what they call a sexist icon.

With her straight blonde tresses, doelike baby-blue eyes, blinding smile and super-human measurements, the mistress of the giant Barbie mansion has become a lightning rod ahead of the May 16 inauguration.

Just a few steps from Alexanderplatz, the main shopping district of east Berlin, the 2,500-sq.-meter slice of Malibu lifestyle is nestled between a railway and old communist housing blocks.

Inside, young Barbie fans can pretend to bake cupcakes in a marvelous kitchen, rummage through her sequin-studded wardrobe in the blonde bombshell’s “endless” walk-in closet, and lounge in her — pink, of course — living room while admiring hundreds of dolls on display.

“For €22 (¥2,900), you can have two careers — model or pop star! What kind of image is that presenting to young women?” grumbles Michael Koschitzki, the proudly feminist male leader of a grassroots group of opponents of the Barbie Dreamhouse, and a member of the youth wing of the far-left party Die Linke.

A Facebook faction called “Occupy Barbie Dreamhouse,” created in March with a wink at the New York anti-greed movement Occupy Wall Street, has drawn more than 1,000 supporters since its launch in March when the Berlin plans came to light.

It regrets that “the vast majority of little girls play with a doll that, if she were real, would be anorexic and whose life would consist of waiting for Ken in the car”, Koschitzki said.

Ten thousand flyers, featuring an angry fist piercing adverts for the attraction, were printed to publicize the fight against what protesters call “sexist propaganda.”

Having weathered half a century of feminist rage, Mattel, Barbie’s U.S. manufacturer, notes that it has modernized the doll’s image, moving beyond the beach beauty to create surgeon dolls and even a presidential candidate.

“Barbie has again become a tool for some to advance their own agenda,” a spokesperson for the company’s German unit said.

The conflict is due to come to a head on May 16, the opening day, with a planned demonstration under an “Occupy Barbie Dreamhouse” banner.

“We will be very happy if we can bring together 100 people,” admits Koschitzki, whose protest group includes several leftist organizations and the initiative Pinkstinks, which is fighting against the gender-stereotyping produced by the color’s hegemony in the little-girl universe.

Barbie’s Dreamhouse, which was conjured up by Vienna-based Event Marketing Service with a license from Mattel — and which has a twin sister at a shopping mall in southern Florida — is already drawing curious families.

Barbie, for her part, will have to pack her bags on Aug.25. The Dreamhouse will then be dissembled, placed in crates and sent on a tour of other European cities.

  • Casper Steuperaert

    Feminists should look at the REAL problems women face everyday. Unequal payment, unequal treatment etc… They should NOT harras the toy industry!