For some, it’s a dream in pink. For others, it’s a monument to misogyny. The Barbie Dreamhouse opened its doors in Berlin on Thursday, and demonstrators and journalists were out in force. Femen also made an appearance — to burn Barbie on the cross.
In the end, someone did get hurt — and in the center of the events at the Barbie Dreamhouse Experience on Thursday afternoon stood a gigantic, pink high-heeled shoe. The pump was actually a fountain of sorts, and the emblem of the life-sized dollhouse that opened its doors to the public on Thursday near Berlin’s Alexanderplatz square.
In the weeks before its opening, various groups voiced their disapproval of the temporary theme park. And on Thursday, demonstrators finally got their chance to show just how furious they are. In the early afternoon, an activist with the women’s rights group Femen climbed onto the gigantic shoe dressed only in a mini-skirt. She was carrying a burning cross on which a Barbie doll had been crucified. Parents and children stood nearby. The women screamed over and over again: “Being Barbie is not a career!”
When another protester became involved, going after a security guard, a brief scuffle ensued, a stroller tipped over and an elderly woman fell to the ground. According to police, the woman was slightly injured and went to the hospital for treatment.
It may sound relatively banal, but Barbie Dreamhouse personnel didn’t find it funny at all. “They were standing at the fence and chanting ‘Burn it down! Burn it down!'” one employee said. And then the Femen activist started running around with her burning cross. The employee said he thought she was going to light the building on fire.
And the building is not made out of bricks and mortar — it is nothing but a tent. Almost nothing here is real: The walls are made of canvas, the columns of plastic, and the windows and curtains are merely painted on.
The answer to many a young girl’s dream was put up by EMS Entertainment not far from Alexanderplatz in the heart of Berlin, a theme park in pink and white. Children must pay €12 ($15), their adult companions €3 more. Berlin will be just the first stop on a larger tour for the exhibit, remaining in the German capital until the end of August.
The organizers had likely hoped the grand opening would make a different sort of headline. But protesters grabbed the limelight even before the opening. The place is nothing but “sexist propaganda” for children, a spokesman for the group Occupy Barbie Dreamhouse told the left-wing daily Die Tageszeitung. The famous doll and her modelesque figure merely services misogynistic clichés, critics say. Some 2,000 people have joined the Facebook group since it was launched.
As such, media interest on Thursday was high. Hordes of journalists wandered through the pink Barbie tent to take a closer look at the miracles inside and, more to the point, to convince one of the relatively few families present despite school and summery weather to be interviewed on camera.
The inside of the Dreamhouse is poignantly harmless. There is a pink kitchen where children can bake virtual cupcakes using a touch-screen. A pink piano with colorful buttons instead of keys that must be pushed to make music. A sled in which they can sit to race through a virtual winter landscape. A table with pens where children can color in Barbie pictures and decorate them with glitter. And everywhere, in display cases, there are Barbies, all stylishly dressed, blonde and, of course, super-thin.
‘Totally Off Base’
Is it really all that harmful? “This house is only about beauty, cooking and baking,” says Susa Bruha, 34, one of the dozen members of the anti-sexist group Pinkstinks that showed up on Thursday for the opening, well before the crucified doll went up in flames.
“It is simply a very one-dimensional view of women,” Bruha says about the exhibit. The message, she says, is that girls can become either models or pop stars — and nothing else. “But there are other girls who are perhaps small or fat but can do other things super well.”
Christoph Rahofer, head of EMS Entertainment, sees things differently. “Personally, I think they are totally off base,” he says about the protesters. “I really can’t understand how playing with a Barbie doll is problematic.” There are, he says, certainly problems in the world that are more pressing than his exhibit.
In recent weeks, there has been no shortage of critique and insults aimed at Rahofer and the Barbie Dreamhouse, a fact which likely explained the watchful eye his personnel kept on the press. They followed journalists throughout the exhibition to ensure that no photos were made of Barbie’s four-poster bed, her bathroom or her tub.
Burned on the Cross
They had plenty of work to do. Journalists from around the world — from Poland, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and the US were present. All of them wanted to see if Barbie Dreamhouse is really that bad — and if something newsworthy might happen outside.
For a long time, it didn’t. Until midday, the Pinkstinks people were the only ones holding their posters up to the cameras. “Barbie is not my baby,” reads one. And “Don’t just bake cupcakes, eat them too!”
The scene was almost idyllic. Leftist demonstrators, feminists and other anti-Barbie protesters sat peacefully on the artificial grass or on pink chairs enjoying the warm May sun while small children crawled around in front of the display tent.
And then, Barbie was burned on the cross.
Daniel Cohn-Bendit on the cover of his 1975 book “The Great Bazaar.” Shocking experts are resurfacing now.
BERLIN – In the next few days, Germany’s Green Party leaders are expected to assign a mandate to an academic a very particular research project: reconstruct to what extent, during the 1980s, pedophilia was propagated by their own party.
But whoever is entrusted with the task, what’s already clear is that he or she has to investigate how many Green Party resolutions aimed at “decriminalizing” sexual activity between adults and minors there were and when these were rescinded.
Even more important are two issues relating to collective psychology. First: Why is the party only dealing with this issue now? Already, several years ago, the center-left Die Tageszeitung, or “taz” as it is known, a daily newspaper founded in 1978, which like the early Greens was associated with tolerance for pedophilia, had published a series of self-critical articles about its failure to take a tougher stance on advocates of child abuse.
But the Green Party appears not to have been moved either by the articles in a newspaper much read by its members or by the very loud public conversation unleashed by revelations of child abuse in the Catholic Church to take a closer look at its own abuse issues.
Apparently it required the recent hoopla over European Green politician Daniel Cohn-Bendit winning the 2013 Theodor Heuss Prize for “exemplary democratic disposition,” for the party to take a closer look at his stance, and that of other Greens, on the subject.
Cohn-Bendit has been accused of pedophilia over comments in his 1975 book The Great Bazaar, where he wrote about his time as a kindergarten teacher, saying “It happened several times, that a few children would open the fly of my pants and begin to stroke me. That represented a problem.” He has since come out and said that the book was not based on true events, but was rather an “obnoxious provocation.”
Daniel Cohn-Bendit in 2012 – Photo: Stephan Röhl
Secondly: Why – despite ample opportunity – did no Green party member in the 1980s ever bring charges against suspected child abusers? Green Parliament Member Marieluise Beck, who was active in the party during the 1980s, told Die Welt about the presence during party conferences of members of the Indianerkommune (Indian Commune) – a “children’s rights” initiative that supported pedophilic relationships.
One would have thought that reasonable people would have caught on to the idea that the men who showed up to rally support for their cause were having sex with some of the children and youths they brought with them. One important party member, Michael Vesper – today the Director General of the German Olympic Sports Confederation, and a founding member of the Greens back in 1979 – says he has come believe that was a mistake.
“We should have taken a close look at what was going on with those children, some of whom were only six or seven years old,” Vesper told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung newspaper.
But it seems that none of the party functionaries were the least bit interested in the legalities of the situation. There are no known cases of anyone alerting children’s services or bringing charges. This is a major issue that needs to be cleared.
What is somewhat clearer now, is what party leaders see as the fundamental task of the investigative report – what exactly happened during these party conferences and what were the resolutions between 1980 and the party’s definitive repudiation of pedophiles in 1987?
What is this summertime “honey pot”?
Also to be addressed is the “honey pot” comparison made by Joschka Fischer, an Alliance’90/Green politician who served as German Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor from 1998-2005. In Pepe Danquart’s documentary film Joschka und Herr Fischer, showing this week on German TV, Fischer says of the early Greens that they were like “the honey pot you put out in a meadow in the summertime” to attract as much fauna as possible.
And among the fauna back then in alternative circles was the Indianerkommune, adult/child housing collective, particularly the Nuremberg branch, which hoped that – by storming the podium, kids in tow, during Green Party conferences – the subject of the supposed repression of free sexuality would become part of the political agenda. Which indeed it did become however briefly at a regional meeting of Greens in the state of Nordrhein Westfalen in 1985, resulting in a resolution calling for sexual contact between adults and children not to be punishable by law.
True, the resolution was immediately rescinded – however, that it could even have been possible at all shows how open many Green Party members were to the political demands of pedophiles.
Another indication of this was the Party’s own Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft Schwule, Päderasten und Transsexuelle – a Working Group on Homosexuals, Pedophiles, and Transsexuals, known as BAG SchwuP, which supported legalizing sex between children and adults. It was only when this group was dissolved in 1987 that pedophiles lost whatever influence they had in the party.
The Greens were closely involved in discussions on punishment for sexual crimes, and they were right in the sense that there was undoubtedly material open to question in Paragraph 182 on the abuse of kids of 14 and 15. The problem was their take on it.
Paragraph 182 of the then applicable version of the law stated that any adult man over 21 who had intercourse with “a girl under 16 years of age” (i.e. 14 or 15) could be punished with up to a year in prison “unless the perpetrator married the girl he seduced.” However, charges could only be brought by the girl’s parents or legal guardian – not by the girl herself.
Instead of calling for the paragraph to be amended – which it was in 1994 – in 1985 the Green Party faction in the Federal Parliament called for Paragraph 182 to be removed without replacement from the legal code. If that had been done, what it would have meant was that there was no law to protect 14 and 15-year-olds from sexual activity with those over 21. Many Greens were against the idea of protecting kids of 14 and 15 from sex with adults.
The draft for the legislation to abolish Paragraph 182 was unanimously approved by the party’s parliamentarians – which doesn’t mean that even a significant minority of them would have given approval to a law that OK’d sex with children under 14.
All this was turned to advantage by pedophiles and was used as a door opener. The party’s chief whip in the Federal Parliament, Volker Beck, admitted as much when he told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper that “pedophiles could also contribute their views,” and were for the abolishment of Paragraph 176 which dealt with punishing those having sexual relations with children.
Volker Beck continues to deny that he entertained any ideas for resolutions along those lines.
That a text he wrote recommending liberalization appears in a 1988 collection of essays called Der pädosexuelle Komplex (“The Pedo-Sexual Complex”) is according to Beck due to the fact “the publisher included the essay in the book against my will.”