is the new ‘barbie dreamhouse’ a feminist nightmare?
A life-sized Barbie Dreamhouse is opening in Europe, in what newspaper articles call a feminist nightmare. And they are not the only ones a bit perturbed by the idea, with more than 1700 supporters joining the ‘Occupy Barbie Dreamhouse’ facebook page since it was started in March.
When I agreed to write this article, I thought I knew exactly what I was going to say. After all, I’m a feminist. I should loathe Barbie and all Barbie related things. But to be perfectly honest, I have never had that much of a problem with her. I acknowledge that maybe Barbie can cause body image issues in some, but all I remember of my doll-filled childhood was getting together with the neighbourhood kids to cut our respective Barbie’s arms and legs off (kids are nothing if not creepy and slightly sociopathic). When I actually did ignore things like the packaging my toys came in or rocks I found at the local park, to play with my dolls (rather than mutilate them), my imagination was the limit. And due to being taught feminist ideologies from a young age, Barbie was always something awesome, like a dinosaur hunter or the first female Prime Minister. I have always found Disney princesses much worse than Barbie, since not only were they beautiful in a way no person could ever be, but because they always seem to sit around waiting for a big strong man to rescue. Even my imagination couldn’t make Snow White anything other than what she was- completely helpless and a really bad judge of character.
So it is not for Barbie’s own sake that I really don’t like this idea of a Dreamhouse. It is because the Barbie Dreamhouse helps to shove the message of what girls should like and be like down their throats. The Dreamhouse doesn’t present the idea that woman are powerful or smart. Instead little girls can pretend to bake in the kitchen, go through Barbie’s walk in closest, walk down a runway, and get makeovers for two of Barbie’s careers- a choice of pop star or fashion model. Oh yeah, and EVERYTHING is pink.
Now there is nothing wrong with liking pink, or baking, or fashion. But if you go to any toy store, you would be forgiven for thinking that these are the only things that little girls are interested in. When I was little, most toys for girls were little fake kitchens and irons; dolls that we could dress up; and costumes to wear in so that we could pretend that we were the fairies and princesses we so desperately wanted to be. And the toys today are exactly the same. And the messages today are exactly the same. Girls like baking. Girls like housework. Girls like clothes. And girls should pay great attention to their physical appearance, because being beautiful is important.
However, the life-sized Barbie Dreamhouse isn’t the feminist nightmare that people claim it is. Because I don’t think that it is going to cause any long lasting damage, or cause any sort of dramatic shift away from gender equality. It is not promoting or saying anything new; these gender-stereotype enforcing messages are forced on us every day through the media. What is sad is that the Barbie Dreamhouse is not the instigator. Rather, it is only a product of our society and what our society thinks that little girls should aspire to be: pop star or fashion model.