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Why girls want pink princess dresses

Liselotte plays the harmonica. The harmonica is pink. Liselotte too. The four-year-old wears a floor-length, pink princess dress with a hoop skirt and a glitter chain around her neck. A glittering crown sits on the blonde, plaited hair.

Liselotte: "Princess dress, very chic, pink."

Liselotte has a clear idea of ​​what girls and boys look like and how they should behave. Boys are wilder and always want to fight, says the four-year-old, girls are very calm. We don't want to do what the boys do, says Liselotte firmly:

"For example, putting on pants, the girls don't want to do that."

Liselotte steadfastly refuses to wear pants. She would love to go to kindergarten dressed as a princess every day. A floor-length pink glitter dress for boys? No way:

"Then I'll laugh at them. That looks really strange. Boys wear trousers, prince trousers, and the girls wear princess dresses."

Liselotte turns back and forth in front of the mirror, walks into the bathroom, puts on lip gloss. In the meantime she has changed, exchanging one pink princess dress for the next.

Some boys no longer come to Liselotte to play because all she wants to do is play a princess, says her mother Uta Bielfeld. Where does that come from? She and her husband Magnus Rüde have often thought about it, they are reflective parents. Both work as science managers, she for the Leibniz Association, he at the Berlin Charité. The explanation that this is all genetically determined is too easy for them.

Mother and father (dialogue): "We were a bit surprised because we tried to keep things neutral when it came to toys. We were really amazed that there was a strong tendency towards dolls." - "Yes, even so impressive, because one of the big toys was a Duplo train. That's something where you try to arouse interests, contrary to the typical gender roles, and that didn't really catch on. Also certain colors, that suddenly pink was so important, it came suddenly. It's difficult to explain where that comes from. "

Liselotte's parents are torn. Your four-year-old daughter should be able to pursue her interests, inclinations and passions - on the one hand. On the other hand, the pink mania shouldn't go too far - Uta Bielfeldt and Magnus Rüde set limits. Liselotte is not allowed to go to daycare in the princess dress, nor does she get the dream castle made of cheap pink plastic, instead the father tinkers a lock together with the daughter on the weekend.

The parents worry that Liselotte might internalize a certain ideal girl. Because the world of princesses conveys: Success, admiration and recognition only exist for a beautiful appearance, not for a specific achievement. The princesses in current children's books, films and audio books are calm, well-behaved and adaptable.

Mother: "Well, it's a very passive image of women. I'm trying to counteract that. Well, that's definitely something that I find very negative."

But then the 33-year-old remembers her own childhood. How she fought against the dark brown curtains in her nursery, desperately wanted the pink fabric. When I had the pink curtains, I was happy, says Uta Bielfeldt:

"To be honest, I would now like to sew pink curtains for my daughter, if that makes her so happy as to counter it so strongly.
I would still resist buying products that are precisely tailored to this target group, so for example we have never actively bought anything from Princess Lillifee. "

Princess Lillifee - originally a children's book character, now a multi-million dollar brand. A mixture of fairy and princess, always dressed in glittering pink. She rides in a carriage, takes care of the animals, loves her unicorn and is the dream of many kindergarten girls. Liselotte's, too, of course. I have a Lillifee notebook, I'll show you, she calls and walks into her children's room:

"There are also stories in here. You can dress up as Lillifee here, you can also have a Lillifee suitcase like this, a wallet like this, this here, this here. Katarina, my best friend has the suitcase, but in pink." "

The princess’s CDs have now sold 400,000 times in the pink glitter world. The books from Coppenrath-Verlag are now published in 25 countries, each year a new one comes onto the market, combined with current merchandising products - the catalog comprises 50 pages for the Lillifee brand alone.

Pink heart-shaped alarm clock, plush unicorns, plastic collectible figures, chains, bracelets, a beauty set with lipstick, nail polish, mica powder.

"We want to make children happy."

Wolfgang Hölker, owner of the Coppenrath publishing house.

"And that's not a stupid saying, we want to give children roots and I experience that again and again and I really enjoy it."

A flat cap sits on Wolfgang Hölker's tangled gray locks, and the 63-year-old wears a baggy, beige-red checked tweed jacket with baggy corduroy trousers.

Almost 35 years ago, Wolfgang Hölker took over the then tiny science publisher Coppenrath. He published art books, cookbooks and already a few books for children. Then Wolfgang Hölker had an idea that, in retrospect, turned out to be a great sales success:

“When you hear a story that you love about a teddy bear, then you want to hug the teddy bear, not just the book. I looked at the eyes and the hearts and the minds of my children. And out of that that develops. That wasn't a business plan either, that wasn't strategically planned in advance, that's all nonsense. "

Back then it was the idea of ​​a creative mind, today it is called "cross-merchandising". The book for the film, the baking mix for the CD, the eraser for the dream castle, the bedclothes for the book.

Sales have exploded - 20 years ago it was just under three million euros, it is currently 73 million euros a year. Wolfgang Hölker and his 120 employees sell ideal worlds in which girls are passive princesses, boys active pirates and researchers.

Company owner Wolfgang Hölker rejects this criticism that the characters use gender stereotypes from at least the last century. He likes to tell the story of the pre-trial detention center, the walls of which were painted pink and - whoops - the violence has drastically decreased. Incidentally, the parents, not his company, are responsible for what is lying around in the children's rooms. We seduce in a thoughtful way, says the entrepreneur:

"I'm from the age of 48, so 68, you understand, I don't need to explain anything else. You just don't have to buy everything."

Not buying everything - that is difficult for parents, uncles, aunts and grandparents, especially at Christmas. The wish lists are long, the time is short and the Christmas stress is great. Why not fulfill a big wish and enjoy sparkling children's eyes on Christmas Eve? Adults also give each other a lot of useless things - why not buy the Star Wars fighter for the boy and the princess dream castle for the girl?

The Germans are spending almost 2.5 billion euros on toys this year. The number of small, owner-operated toy shops is falling, including department stores with their own toy departments. Big chains like "Spiele Max" or the US-American group "Toys´r ´us" are on the advance. Anyone who has not set foot in a toy store for a long time should be amazed today.

It's getting louder, louder and more colorful here. Currently on offer: a three-story bright pink Barbie dream villa with elevator, lights and sound effects for girls. For boys remote-controlled monsters with lightsabers. Except for the traditional board games, the girls' and boys' areas in the toy store are clearly delimited by color - a boy would never enter the pink zone, and only rarely would a girl enter the boys' black-gray-brown fighting zone.

Manufacturers of originally gender-neutral toys have also differentiated their offers. The Danish Lego game was originally intended for girls and boys, but since the mid-1990s there has also been a special pink edition - a dream house, a horse stable, a family of dogs. For boys, Lego has monsters called Bionicle as well as Star Wars figures and spaceships on offer. The educational scientist Renate Valtin:

"The toy industry is very interested in having two markets, one for boys and one for girls. I have just received Christmas brochures, the girls have the pink dolls and dollhouses and doll kitchens, so they are already committed to their later female activities . And for the little boys there are very interesting tools or building blocks, technical toys, weapons of all kinds. "

Toys for girls are becoming more and more traditional, says the emeritus Berlin education professor Renate Valtin and mentions the Barbie doll as evidence. In the 60s and 70s there was always new work clothing for this doll, from astronaut suits to doctor's smocks, even a Barbie with a doctoral hat. At the moment it's only about fashion and styling. And, how could it be otherwise - about the princess in bright pink:

"To the brand new Barbie DVD" The Princesses Academy ". A magical princess bag becomes a royal bedroom.
Beauty mirror and more. New: Barbie Princesses bedroom and bathroom. Magically beautiful. "


When educational scientist Renate Valtin looks into children's rooms, toy shops and television programs, she sees a social roll-back to the disadvantage of women everywhere. The studies she has carried out also confirm clichés that have long been believed to have been overcome. 30 years ago, Renate Valtin had 10-year-old schoolchildren write essays. The topic: Why do I like to be a boy, why do I like to be a girl?

In 1980 the results were clear: boys were satisfied with their gender, felt superior, physically stronger, than dominant. The girls were much more humble in their self-descriptions:

"They were more dissatisfied with their role than boys because they had already experienced the social restrictions. They said the girls always had to be tidy, they weren't allowed to climb trees, they had to constantly do housework or look after others So, it was clear: a really positive self-image could not be seen in the girls. "

Last year Renate Valtin had school essays written on this subject again. Her thesis: The girls and boys' descriptions of themselves and others should have aligned themselves by now. After all, a lot has happened in terms of equality in the last 30 years.

But the evaluation of the essays showed that hardly anything has changed among the boys. Just like 30 years ago, they feel like the stronger sex. A shift has taken place among girls: housework and social care are no longer the focus of self-descriptions, instead expressions relating to beauty and fashionable attributes predominate.

"You read with depressing regularity: I like to be a girl because I have long hair, because I can put on make-up, because I can wear beautiful things, because I can wear anklets. Well, this result almost blew me away, I think but very depressing. "

The essays show a current picture, the database is too small to be representative. But the results of a large-scale representative longitudinal study by Renate Valtin point in the same direction.

Several thousand boys and girls from grade two to grade 9 were surveyed. The result: Boys generally have a more positive image of themselves than girls. The girls' self-esteem is lower and has not improved over the years.

"We actually found the girls' low level of confidence in performance to be even worse. So, we asked them whether they felt they were able to cope with new challenges, whether they were confident that they could achieve difficult performances. And that showed that Girls have a low level of confidence in their own ability to perform even in relation to boys. "

The result of the study contradicts the opinion of some education experts that boys are the losers in the German school system. Boys are more likely to attend secondary school, their grades are worse, they leave school more often than girls without a qualification. The explanation for this is simple, says Renate Valtin. Girls simply adapted better than boys because of their lower self-esteem. However, this quality does not help them later in life, on the contrary.

"Come in, find a place, very cozy here, spread out on the pillows, sit down. Oh, please take off your shoes beforehand."

The family planning center Balance in Berlin-Lichtenberg. The sex pedagogue Ludwig Drefahl invited class 4a of the elementary school at the planetarium to a workshop. On the floor a fluffy orange carpet, thick wine-red seat cushions.

"Do you know what it should be about today? Do you have any idea why you're here today? Yes, it's about differences boys, girls. What is typically boy, typically girl."

The children have sat down to match the theme - the boys lounging on the pillows in one corner, the girls in the other.

"Then I'll ask the boys, what is a typical girl?"
- "You cook a lot, you wash, you iron."


"What else? Let's ask the boys again.
- "You always wear a lot of jewelry and make-up."
- "I would also like to say something else, the women like to do the housework and the men are the lazy ones."
- "With us, everything is done by our mom."
- "Girls always want to look beautiful, including women."

Ludwig Drehfahl knows the answers. The sex educator knows that there are always clichés at the beginning. It is only in the course of the morning that it is possible to break it open a little. Better if both groups appear equally strong. Worse when the boys are as dominant and the girls as reserved as they were this morning. Ludwig Drehfahl takes a stack of cards from the table. Have everyone draw one, read the question on it, and answer it.

"Who is better at driving a car, men or women?"
- "I think that both of them can do it the same way."
- "Women behind the wheel are not entirely at ease."

If the educational scientist Renate Valtin were to hear these dialogues, she would see her opinion confirmed by the social roll-back. Other experts, developmental psychologists and youth researchers, are more relaxed about these findings. They point out that children between the ages of four and ten are generally very fixated on their own gender role. Only then does the critical examination of being a girl and boy begin.

Parents should accept this phase and not try to raise their children in a gender-neutral way, says Axel Dammler, for example. The Munich youth researcher has just published a book entitled "Pink Knight and Black Princess". In it, Dammler, managing director of the market research institute "iconkids & youth", advocates accepting the differences between boys and girls:

"Well, the pink mania is a phase that the girls go through, it doesn't hurt the girls. It only hurts my eyes, but I can live with that. Ultimately, the important thing is to encourage the girls to make their own Develop skills and that they can be proud of them. "

A group of active mothers from Great Britain see it very differently. For years she has denounced that the cosmetics and fashion industry is already targeting six- to eight-year-old girls - with target group-oriented advertising for nail polish, perfume, lip gloss and with emphatically feminine clothing that turns the little girls into lolitas. The mothers called for a Christmas boycott of a toy chain and started a campaign on the Internet. The title: "Pink stinks" - Pink stinks.