In Berlin, it's hard to miss the massive pink structure that has sprouted up seemingly over night in the middle of town. Emblazoned with the words Barbie, The Dreamhouse Experience, it is a 50,000 square foot replica of the plastic doll's Malibu mansion. Inside, visitors can see over 350 Barbies, try on the petite doll's outfits using a "digital mirror,"and virtually bake cupcakes in a the Dreamhouse kitchen. Fans of the toy can live out this slice of domesticity through August 25.
But some people, namely the "sexstremists" in FEMEN, are not happy about the pink playhouse, arguing that Barbie is a symbol of repression and sends the wrong message to young girls about what their role in society should be. During the opening of the "experience" yesterday, topless women and men in drag took over the entryway carrying signs that read, "I will free you from the horror house" and "Stop Sexism." One woman, with "Life in plastic is not fantastic" scrawled across her stomach, stood in the massive high heel water fountain and burned a Barbie tied to a crucifix. According to the feminist group:
Ritual Barbie'cue with fried meat of the plastic idol was made to demonstrate the true meaning of the history of commercial monster Mattel. They have turned a piece of plastic into a god for millions of girls from all over the world who now seek only to imitate plastic shapes and stupidity and absurdity of conduct. The nazi ideology of Mattel purposefully creates the image of a female doll dictating not only the appearance of new generations, and that the worst social role of reckless beauty finding a reason to exist in the continuous care of their appearance and the house. FEMEN urges mercilessly burn the idols! A woman is not a Barbie! A woman is a revolution!
These radical men and women weren't the only ones who showed up in opposition yesterday. A group called Pink Stinks who asserts there's more than one way to be a girl, showed up to demonstrate against "products, advertising content and marketing strategies, to assign the girls a limiting gender roles." And members of Occupy Barbie Dreamhouse who had been campaigning for weeks against the pink mansion, were out in full force.
Germany is one of Europe's largest markets for Barbie. She has been available there since 1959, and has been a polarizing figure ever since. The Barbie Dreamhouse is one of the first times protesters have had a landmark, or place to convene to voice their distaste for the doll, the franchise and what the corporation represents. Its unclear what the protests will yield, but one could speculate that all the little girls who were at the opening to see Barbie yesterday, got more of an experience than they bargained for.
What do you think? Would you want to visit the Barbie Dreamhouse or are you glad people are out protesting?
Protest images via FEMEN; Barbie Dreamhouse image via (cc) Flickr user Nerxs