• Germany edition
 
Giant Barbie doll house opens amid protests
Photo: DPA

Giant Barbie doll house opens amid protests

Published: 16 May 2013 15:34 GMT+02:00
Updated: 16 May 2013 15:34 GMT+02:00

Harmless pink fun or a bad influence on young girls? A life-size Barbie dream house attraction opened in Berlin on Thursday to protests including a bare-chested woman burning a doll in effigy. Jessica Ware reports.

Barbie, the world's most famous blonde, has a new home in the German capital. Offering an “interactive experience” for visitors, the life-size pink mansion is hard to miss stretching over 2,500 square metres nestled between eastern Berlin's communist-era tower blocks.

For €22, visitors can peruse Barbie's walk-in wardrobes, learn how to be a model, do their make up and have their photos taken. Almost the entire place is pink – a colour that has sparked a heated debate about gender stereotyping among critics.

Among some of the few guests on Thursday afternoon was a trio of six-year-old girls. Sitting on pink garden chairs outside, covered in glitter from the “make-up” room, they were clearly very excited about being able to go in Barbie's house.

“They saw the posters around the city and wanted to come,” said Anja, mother to one of the girls. “It was too expensive but if the kids like it, that's OK.”

After they left, members of the controversial topless feminist protest group Femen arrived wielding a burning cross with a Barbie doll strapped to it. "Life in plastic is not fantastic," adorned the woman's naked torso.

'Sexism for capitalist gains'

Though its opening had been keenly awaited by some of the city's younger residents, the house has garnered massive criticism from German feminists, anti-capitalists, and even average members of the public – some of whom were present in Barbie outfits.

Over 100 more were expected to attend a protest later in the day organised by a youth socialist group Linksjugend, which is also behind the “Occupy Barbie Dreamhouse” campaign gaining attention online.

“We are here because sexism is being used for capitalist gains,” 25-year-old Linksjugend member going by the name Steini said. Standing across the street, they were told to leave Barbie's grounds. “We aren't actually going to occupy the house, but we plan on demonstrating peacefully,” he said.

Shots from the action at the Barbie Dreamhouse

The group was not, he explained, against children having fun, but was opposed to them allegedly being manipulated for financial gain. Behind him, a young girl came out with her grandparents toting a bag with two new dolls in it.

The controversy has not passed by the city's politicians either. Philipp Lengsfeld, a conservative Christian Democratic politician in the city's central Mitte district where the Barbie house is located, told The Local that he was disappointed in the protesters.

“Berlin is a free city and Barbie is welcome,” he said. “It's just one of several interesting attractions in the city and it is not anyone's place to say what people should or should not buy.”

Girls can do their make-up like Barbie

But proud male feminist and protest organizer Michael Koshitzki told onlookers that the house represented an obsession with female beauty that needed to be stamped out.

“This protest is not against the parents who chose to take their children, nor the children themselves, but against the unhealthy beauty obsession it breeds,” he said.

He added that one of the most popular parts of the house seemed to be the dressing room, where girls are encouraged to “make themselves look like Barbie”.

For the trio of six-year-olds, this was the funnest part. “We don't get to do make-up at home,” one said, pointing proudly to her pink, sparkling forehead. “I have a whole box full of Barbies at home,” another said, showing her freshly painted green, not pink, nails.

Yet for two older visitors, the overt girlishness of the house triggered the loudest alarm bells. “It is very pink,” said 20-year-old Laura. Like the girls, she too had seen the posters adorning Berlin's walls for the past months and fancied seeing what a real life Barbie house would look like.

“It was totally unrealistic and definitely too expensive, especially for families who take sons because they would have nothing to do.”

'The world is colourful, Barbie is just pink'

That the house was only really marketed at young girls, and arguably inaccessible for boys was, said Doreen Siebernick,head of Berlin's teacher union the GEW, just one of the reasons she had come to voice concern. “As a pedagogue, I understand that dolls are part of play. But look around, the world is colourful while the Barbie house is only pink.”

“They are offering school groups reduced rates to get in,” she said.

Siebernick added what she found dangerous was the fact that Barbie promoted the idea to young girls that they being rich, sexy and glamorous was the most important thing for women. “The children I teach do not have access to this lifestyle,” she said.

Also present was campaign group Pink Stinks, the founder of which Stevie Schmiedel said she was particularly upset about the house promoting “pressure to look perfect.” This was unacceptable “in a society where only 47 percent of young women say they feel comfortable in their own skin,” she added.

“This isn't about stopping fun, but more calling for Barbie's makers to think about maybe changing the way she looks.” The problem lay, Schmiedel said, in the toy industry.

Jessica Ware

jessica.ware@thelocal.com

twitter.com/jesscware

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Minister's jet grounded twice in a month
Foreign Minister Steinmeier reboards his plane after the delay. Photo: DPA

Minister's jet grounded twice in a month

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier had to wait for two hours on a runway on Wednesday night due to a technical glitch on his plane - the second problem the jet has had in a month. READ () »

German of the Week
'It's important people are confronted with cancer'
Photo: Marina Proksch-Park

'It's important people are confronted with cancer'

Images of children with cancer often evoke weakness and defeat. But Marina Proksch-Park shows them enjoying life. The photographer who has sparked an online campaign with her pictures is The Local's German of the Week. READ () »

CDU candidate forced to remove Turkish logo
Yasar Calik. Photo: Facebook/Yasar Calik

CDU candidate forced to remove Turkish logo

A Christian Democrat (CDU) town council candidate has apologized and withdrawn campaign bags on which he had printed a new party logo where the Turkish crescent appeared inside the "C" for Christian. READ () »

Cheap flights get pricier as airlines expand
Lufthansa's daughter company Germanwings is one of the faster-growing budget airlines in Germany. Photo: DPA

Cheap flights get pricier as airlines expand

Budget airlines are expanding their range of routes from Germany but ticket prices are climbing along with them, a report from the German Aeronautics Centre (DLR) revealed on Thursday. READ () »

Ecclestone lawyers: Bribes never happened
Bernie Ecclestone with his lawyers in a Munich court on Thursday morning. Photo: DPA

Ecclestone lawyers: Bribes never happened

UPDATE: Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone went on trial in Germany on Thursday, denying charges of bribery that threaten to land the British billionaire in jail. READ () »

Minister praises Erasmus 'success story'
Photo: DPA

Minister praises Erasmus 'success story'

A revamped version of European student exchange programme Erasmus officially launched in Berlin on Thursday with Germany's education minister praising the scheme as a Europe-wide “success story”. READ () »

Turkey tourists lose call to prayer refund bid
Photo: DPA

Turkey tourists lose call to prayer refund bid

A German couple has lost their legal fight to get a refund for a Turkish holiday which they said was ruined by the calls to prayer from a nearby mosque. It is just one of a series of court claims by picky German tourists. READ () »

Germany halts arms sales to Russia
Russian troops surround a Ukrainian base in Crimea. Photo: DPA

Germany halts arms sales to Russia

Germany has stopped selling arms to Russia due to the current “political situation”, according to reports on Thursday. The sale of military equipment to Russia by German firms has been criticized by the country’s Nato allies. READ () »

Truck kills man lying in middle of road
Photo: DPA

Truck kills man lying in middle of road

Police were searching for witnesses on Wednesday morning following a mysterious road accident in which a 25-year-old man was killed as he lay in the middle of the road. READ () »

Where are Germany's smartest towns?
Germany's cleverest town. Photo: DPA

Where are Germany's smartest towns?

A brain training website released scores on Wednesday showing which German towns performed best and worst in a range of cognitive tests - with some surprising results. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
National
Germany sold €40 million of arms to Russia
Photo: DPA
National
Girls find live ammunition in Easter bonfire
Photo: Facebook/screenshot
Berlin
Germany's most viral advert for an apartment?
Gallery
11 things you need to know about German beer
Photo: DPA
Politics
Interview with AfD - 'If Britain goes, Europe is lost'
Photo: DPA
National
Police damage own water cannon with eggs
Photo: DPA
National
Let us start work later after World Cup nights, unions says
Photo: DPA
Society
Crystal meth use hits record level
Photo: DPA
Rhineland
Elderly man taped €200,000 to his genitals
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
What's the unemployment rate in your area of Germany?
Photo: Galerie Bilderwelt
Gallery
World War I in colour photos
Photo: DPA
Society
JobTalk: Why you should teach English in Germany
Advertisement:
Photo: DPA
National
330,000 sign up against TV licence fee
Photo: Submitted
Frankfurt
'I'll get even with my old pal Schwarzenegger'
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Ten great inventions you (probably) didn't know were German
Photo: J. Arthur White
Berlin
Clashes in Berlin as refugees tear down their own camp
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The 10 best German employers to work for
CurrencyFair
Sponsored Article
Why it pays to avoid banks when making overseas transfers
Mr. Lodge
Sponsored Article
How to find a furnished rental in Munich
Sponsored Article
How to make a lasting impression in business
Photo: DPA
Society
Nine jobs you can only do in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
Photo: DPA
Features
The Local List Archive - Your guide to all things German
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,077
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd