• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Giant Barbie doll house opens amid protests

The Local · 16 May 2013, 15:34

Published: 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.

Story continues below…

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

Related links:

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Merkel party leader admits sexism is a problem
Jenna Behrends complained that a member of CDU's Berlin government had called her a "big sweet mouse" in front of a large group. Photo: Sophia Kembowski/dpa

A leader of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative party admitted Sunday that it has a problem with sexism in its ranks.

Ethiopia's Bekele nears record as wins Berlin marathon
Participants in the Berlin marathon take to the streets on Sunday. Photo:Paul Zinken/dpa

Kenenisa Bekele narrowly missed out on the world record on Sunday as the Ethiopian won the Berlin marathon ahead of former winner Wilson Kipsang.

Europe needs deals to send migrants home: Merkel
Angela Merkal poses with Bulgaria's Prime minister Boyko Borissov (L) and Austrian chancellor Christian Kern (R) in Vienna. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

Europe needs to secure more deals to send rejected migrants home, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has told counterparts in Vienna.

Germany sees 'turning point' in birth rate decline
Children at a a kindergarten in Swabia. Photo: Nikolaus Lenau/Flickr

Is Germany's three-decade decline in birth rate now over?

Trump protesters rebuild and tear down 'Berlin Wall'
The 'Stop Trump' protest at the Brandenburg Gate. Photo: DPA.

US expats gathered at the Berlin's iconic Brandenburg Gate on Friday "rebuild" the Berlin Wall and protest US presidential candidate Donald Trump's own proposed wall-building.

Accusation of sexism within Merkel's party creates uproar
Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen and Chancellor Angela Merkel, two leading women in the CDU party. Photo: DPA.

A young politician from the ranks of Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has caused a storm by suggesting that the party is institutionally sexist.

EasyJet 'in talks to buy German airline' to duck Brexit
Photo: DPA

EasyJet is in talks to acquire TUIfly, a board member of the German carrier said Friday, as the British no-frills airline looks for ways to keep flying freely within the EU after Britain quits the bloc.

Symbols of migrant plight to go on show in Bonn museum
Photo: DPA

A people smugglers' car, a dinghy and a life jacket are among items related to Europe's migration crisis due to go on display at a German museum.

Brexit
Green party demand 'quick and easy' citizenship for Brits
Photo: DPA

The Green party has called for Brits living in Germany to be offered a painless path to obtaining dual citizenship as to "reassure them over the future".

Berlin the new London? 10m2 flat to rent for €750 a month
Photo: Immonet.de.

This shoebox apartment in the gentrified Bergmann-Kiez neighbourhood may be a sign that the tides are turning for Berlin’s comparatively cheap housing market.

Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Lifestyle
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Lifestyle
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
National
Seven great reasons to stay in Germany this September
National
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
National
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
National
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
Travel
Enter if you dare: Berlin's best abandoned haunts
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
5,644
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd