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  • Seven questions for… Occupy Barbie Dreamhouse


Seven questions for… Occupy Barbie Dreamhouse

INTERVIEW: Barbie Dreamhouse, in all its pre-fab tackiness, opens today. Instead of Ken, Berlin may have other occupiers in mind: Occupy Barbie Dreamhouse. They hold a demo on May 16 on Alexanderplatz at 3pm.

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Photo by Rasa Urnieziute

The Barbie Dreamhouse: A world of wonder for little girls and their imaginations?

Not so, says Occupy Barbie Dreamhouse. With the plastic icon opening the doors to her pre-fab house today, May 16, the feminist rabble-rousers of OBD have a protest planned for 3pm at Alexanderplatz. Founding member Michael Koschitzki explains why.

So what’s your beef with the Barbie Dreamhouse?

Our protest is not directed against parents going with their children to the Barbie house. We have criticisms against Barbie: she has an eating problem, she is very thin, her BMI would be at 16 or something like that. She wouldn’t menstruate. She’s completely artificial. But it’s not even directed against children playing with Barbie. They can make their own world with Barbie. We had people saying on the Facebook page, “My Barbie doll has a car, a decent job and is really self-confident.” But our criticism against the Barbie Dreamhouse is that it portrays an especially bad picture of women. As we could see today [at the press tour] there is a big cupcake kitchen and also a walk-in fridge, a walk-in closet, a huge high heel collection. For an additional €10 you choose exactly one of two careers: pop star or model. And that’s it: cooking, make-up and singing are portrayed as the total fulfilment of a woman’s life in this Barbie Dreamhouse. That’s what we’re questioning.

But there is a President Barbie.

And they were saying Barbie was also an astronaut and everything. But as far as we know this is not really shown at this dollhouse. What do you have really as a role model for women in today’s life? It’s not just about women staying in the kitchen… women should have a decent job, be very good at it, be good-looking, should take care of the children, should also be in the kitchen and taking care of their marriage and the house and everything. Who can fulfil that picture? And even if we have this President Barbie, it shows that only if you’re beautiful you can become something… you can become a President, Angela Merkel or something like that. That’s really the message of this doll. In our view, even if they have these dolls, it’s not an equal picture of women’s roles.

What kind of alternatives would you see for little girls – and possibly young men as well?

We don’t say we have the perfect alternative role model which should be portrayed. What we want is a big variety of role model. I mean, we are not against young women dancing or something like that, but they can also, I don’t know, play football or have something to do with physics. And we think that there should be other figures in children’s lives [which] would be a much better picture than Barbie. You know, self-confident women, for example Bibi Blocksburg who is a little witch, very self-confident, she stands for her opinion… or if you think internationally, Pippi Longstocking is also a very self-confident woman. We want a variety of roles, but more self-confident roles would be better. 

Christoph Rahofer, the man behind the Barbie Dreamhouse, asked why it’s always a man who brings up these issues. What do you say to that?

This is a very lame way of speaking out against our criticism. I think it’s an easy argument to say, “You’re male, you can’t make a point about women’s oppression.” But, in our initiative, women and men are struggling equally and together and we have lots of representatives. This morning, people had to work, were at school or at universities, and it was by chance that I was there and bringing up the arguments of our initiative.

He also said, “This is just about having fun.” Care to respond?

It’s not really worth responding to. What EMS [the company which owns the house] is doing is taking no care of the message brought to especially young women and children. He says this is not an educational exhibition. I say, what are you presenting here? This is all about role models… it’s portraying to little children how they are going to be as an adult, so, whether they want it to be or not, it’s an educational message. They are absolutely not thinking about it. It’s just “fun” and little children decide what they’re going to play with. I mean if little children were to play with weapons or lighters or something like that, they wouldn’t say that it was just children’s fun.

How did this whole thing start?

Occupy Barbie Dreamhouse started when we first heard that there was going to be a 2500sqm house with pink Barbie stuff going on in Berlin. We thought, OK, this is not going to portray a real emancipated picture of women. And we had a first discussion: “Barbie: what does this doll have to do with women’s oppression?” That was the title of this first debate. We were just one little group in the district of Kreuzkölln – one left youth group starting the whole thing up and then people who weren’t organised at all showed up for that. We started a Facebook page and produced some leaflets that announced that we’re going to have a demonstration. We expected that if we were lucky, we would get 30 people, but then we had this huge media hype.

Did you expect the media hype?

I think it has to do with Barbie. You see Barbie having such big press coverage, like her 40th birthday or any kind of stuff. There’s news on Barbie, apart from the Barbie house, like every few days. But this Barbie dollhouse is a really strange thing here in Berlin…