This advertisement for Barbie’s Dream House represents a highly gendered toy. The color scheme for the toy consists of entirely pinks and purples – colors traditionally associated with female children and often denied to any boys. Barbie herself, along with all of her friends, is also female – the only male doll is presented in a context that makes it clear that he is meant to be treated as Barbie’s boyfriend, not a separate entity. The “highlights” of the house are also highly gendered, with emphases on the kitchen and closets – “there is even a second elevator… just for clothes!” Finally, the 2 glimpses of models that we see are also female, made clear by their similarly pink and purple clothes.
Martin discusses a new-wave of child-rearing, in which parents “encouraged expanded roles for girls at home, at school, at work, and in the media… they encouraged renouncing or at least limiting, for example, dresses, makeup, fairy tales, and housework, all understood as constraints on girls’ lives,” (Martin 458). Yet this Barbie ad betrays a world in whcih such movements are not being embraced. That the various household activities Barbie can now accomplish are glamorized in the commercial reflect similar societal pressures on the girls who play with these toys. Furthermore, that the only Barbie set sold is a house makes it clear that Barbie’s sphere is meant to be interpreted, as are all women’s, as remaining in the home – a sad state indeed.
Martin, Karin A. William Wants a Doll. Can He Have One? Feminists, Child Care Advisors, and Gender-Neutral Child Rearing. Gender and Society, Vol 19, No. 4 (Aug., 2005), pp 456-479.