• 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

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
German of the Week
'Now I can grow cannabis at home'
Günter Weiglein. Photo: DPA

'Now I can grow cannabis at home'

Günter Weiglein is one of three men in Germany who is allowed to grow his own cannabis thanks to a court ruling last week. But he tells The Local he’s not celebrating just yet. READ  

Germany tops penis enlargement table
Do your wurst, doc. Photo: DPA

Germany tops penis enlargement table

Germany is the world’s leader in penis enlargements, with five times as many people in the country undergoing the procedure than anywhere else in the world. Globally, Germany carries out the fourth highest amount of cosmetic surgery operations. READ  

The Local List
The best words in Austrian German
Which one is the Austrian word for tomato? Photo: APA/dpa

The best words in Austrian German

If you’ve lived in Germany, or you learnt Hochdeutsch at school, you may be surprised by some of the language differences between Austria and parts of Germany. READ  

Turks in Germany vote for first time
Voters at Berlin's Olympic Stadium on Thursday. Photo: DPA

Turks in Germany vote for first time

Germany’s large Turkish community headed to polling stations on Thursday to vote for the first time in a Turkish election. The Local visits Berlin’s Olympic Stadium which has been turned into a giant voting booth. READ  

Ice Age lion gets its head back
The lion with the missing half of its head. Photo: Hilde Jensen, Universität Tübingen.

Ice Age lion gets its head back

A 40,000-year-old figurine of a lion has been reunited with its head, more than 80 years after it was first found in a cave in southern Germany, following an extraordinary discovery. READ  

German jobless rate rises in July
Photo: DPA

German jobless rate rises in July

Unemployment in Germany rose in July to 6.6 percent, the Federal Employment Agency said on Thursday, blaming the increase on "seasonal reasons". READ  

Your lottery numbers are 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13
The winning numbers in Wednesday night's lotto. Photo: DPA/Lotto

Your lottery numbers are 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13

Three lucky Germans will take home a six-figure prize after an extremely rare lottery draw. The lucky numbers on Wednesday night were 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 37. READ  

Germany denies 'land for gas' deal with Putin
Merkel with Poroshenko and Putin in June. Photo: DPA

Germany denies 'land for gas' deal with Putin

UPDATE: Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin have been working on a secret peace plan for Ukraine, The Independent newspaper reported on Thursday. The report was later denied by the German government. READ  

Space ship brings special cargo for astronaut
A cargo compartment on the ATV. Photo: ESA

Space ship brings special cargo for astronaut

The last European space freighter blasted off to the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday, carrying a special treat for the station’s German astronaut. The launch of the German-built supply ship marks the end of an era. READ  

World Cup victory makes Germans thirsty
Beer sales abroad and during the World Cup were behind the rise. Photo: DPA

World Cup victory makes Germans thirsty

Germany’s World Cup victory was also good news for the country’s brewers who saw a welcome reversal in the long-term trend of draining beer sales. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Five reasons to visit Oktoberfest (and five not to)
Photo: DPA
Society
Huge Bavarian crop circle puzzles crowds
Photo: DPA
Analysis & Opinion
Have Your Say: Should Germany legalize cannabis?
Photo: DPA
Education
Germany's students fail to graduate in time
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Hamburg harbour lit up in blue
Business & Money
JobTalk: 'Application process is failing'
Photo: Bundesarchiv/Bild 183-S45825
Culture
Germany puts 700,000 WWI docs online
Photo: DPA
Society
This man wants to give all of us €12,000 a year
Photo: DPA
Education
Top university switches master's courses to English
Travel
Plans unveiled for bike trail along former Iron Curtain
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The Local List: 12 best words in German
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
Gallery
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
Education
Raising the bar for law & business 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
Sponsored Article
Bilingual school turning education on its head
Sponsored Article
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

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

3,240
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd