HomeLearning CenterGretchen Whitmer Would Like You to Meet ‘Governor Barbie’

Gretchen Whitmer Would Like You to Meet ‘Governor Barbie’

Originally Published by Mattie Kahn for The New York Times

The politician is having a busy week. She has events at the Capitol and an important bill to sign into law. Like her namesake, who calls the shade her “power color,” she wears a hot pink pantsuit.

The politician is a Barbie doll — one that senior aides to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan decided to dress up like their boss and roll out on social media this week, as the Greta Gerwig-directed “Barbie” movie shows up in theaters.

Earlier this summer, staff members working for Ms. Whitmer — the Democrat who surprised pollsters with a double-digit win in the most recent race for her office — started to appreciate the sheer force of Barbie mania to which the world is currently in thrall. Among many, many other marketing stunts: Crocs has produced a custom Barbie shoe. Burger King made pink sauce. The Whitmer team members wondered whether their boss might benefit from a tie-in of her own.

It’s a bit of a gamble to intentionally compare a female politician to a doll once programmed to despair that “math class is tough” and who has been such an avatar for sexist clichés that feminists spent the 1970s brandishing posters that declared “I am not a Barbie doll.”

But Barbie has also worked as a robotics engineer and has run for president seven times. With the help of a Dreamhouse-size marketing budget, she has found herself in the middle of a cultural resurgence.

Still, she has never been a governor. So the Whitmer team decided to give her some statewide executive experience and get a bump of attention for their boss in the process.

Ms. Whitmer’s digital and creative director Julia Pickett christened the doll Lil’ Gretch, a takeoff on Big Gretch — a Michigan nickname for Ms. Whitmer, inspired by a pandemic-era local rap song about the governor.

The stunt has the backing of EMILY’s List, the Democratic organization dedicated to getting women who support abortion rights elected. (It does not have the official backing of Mattel, the company that makes Barbie. When asked whether infrastructure-oriented girls might soon see a Governor Barbie on store shelves, a representative for Mattel said the company could not share future plans but added, “So fun to know she is a fan!”)

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