Here’s How Michiganders Are Reacting to ‘Governor Barbie’

By Lisa Hayes

July 20, 2023

Many of us in the Michigan news industry woke up this morning to a press release from Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s communications team. We’ve had this happen lots of times over the past several years, but today’s release was different. Today’s release was about Barbies.

By now you’ve probably heard about Governor Barbie, but just in case you haven’t, here’s the quick take: 

A senior aide in the Whitmer office came up with the idea to dress a Barbie doll like the governor—wearing Big Gretch’s signature color, fuchsia—in the week leading up to the “Barbie” film, which debuts this weekend. (Side note: Type “Barbie” into Google this week and you’ll get a sparkly reward.)

According to Mattie Kahn’s story in the New York Times this morning, Whitmer was charmed by the take on the doll with a zillion jobs (except, that is, governor): “When they showed me the first iteration, I thought it was absolutely hilarious,” she said.

Governor Barbie has spent the day legislating, and Gov. Whitmer’s team has had some (probably much-needed, if we’re being honest) fun getting delightfully detailed with her accessories and workload.

Yes, it’s a publicity stunt, but for many people in Michigan—particularly women—it’s giving authenticity.

  

Women across the country, and notably in Midwestern states like Michigan, have expectations for how they should look, speak, and behave. Though we’ve come a long way in the last decade, there’s a wave of sexist criticism, malice, and fear each time a woman earns a position of power here in the Mitten.

Gov. Whitmer just isn’t having it, and seems to be enjoying using her mini-me to send that message.

“It’s like, ‘You want me to look like a Barbie doll, I’m going to embrace that as something that empowers me, not something that is pigeonholing me,’” Jennifer Palmieri—writer and communications director for the Hillary Clinton campaign—said in the Times story.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about Whitmer’s plans for 2028. While that’s still a long way out, today’s Governor Barbie takeover told us two things we can take to the bank: 1) Gretchen Whitmer isn’t afraid to be both feminine and fierce, particularly when she’s representing the majority gender in Michigan. And 2) she’s got the best comms team in the business.

Watch: “Big Gretch, don’t mess with her”—Whitmer shares how she feels about the nickname “Big Gretch”

 

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