︎ Deutsche Version

My bachelor thesis Dollhaus - Geschlechterkonflikte zum Kuschuscheln offers a playful and humorous approach to some gender problem areas such as the gender bias, the gender gap or the "glass ceiling" by means of seven handmade cloth dolls. The dolls have names, short biographies and corresponding "Reality Check" clips, which bring the respective gender conflict to the point. In addition, there is background information on the respective topics. In summary, Dollhaus was originally on a flash animated website, which is now offline. Instead, the dolls and their stories can now be seen here. The basic forms of the dolls make the gender recognizable, but do not use any stereotypes.

Bachelor thesis, Zurich University of the Arts, Trends and Identity, 2008

Mentorship: Christoph Zellweger, Holm Friebe, Katharina Tietze
Second place in the Gender Studies Award of the Zurich University of Applied Sciences
Vicki Vella, 23, Call Center Employee

The only good thing about the call centre, Vicky thinks, is that nobody there cares about her appearance. Otherwise, she hates her job. But she needs the money to party with her friends this weekend. Screaming in the streets, picking up men, peeing in the park and swimming naked in the lake - that's what Vicky enjoys. If she had more money, she would dye her hair even more often.

Background: In everyday life, various examples show that different expectations are placed on the sexes: If waiters automatically bring the bill to the man, if women are only interested in men who are better off, if women are judged more by their appearance men more by their profession, if a woman who has sex with many different partners is called a slut, while the term for the male counterpart is missing, if women cross their legs more often, if men do not kiss each other goodbye - all these everyday things refer to codes of conduct that stubbornly adhere to the sexes.

Susanne Steinbeisser, 54, Marketing Manager

For ten years Susanne Steinbeisser was deputy branch manager of a company for packaging materials. Then she quit because she had never made it to her supervisor's chair during this time, and went into business for herself. She founded her own company and immediately brought her former subordinates on board by offering them better working conditions. Meanwhile, Susanne is a successful entrepreneur and single mother, which would be impossible without the support of her unemployed neighbor, whom she newly hires as a full-time nanny at her home.

Background (status 2008): Although women and men now have equally frequent and equally good university degrees, women generally have a lower professional status than men: In Switzerland, almost twice as many male employees hold management positions as female employees. And the higher the position, the lower the proportion of women. An example from Germany makes this clear: only one board member of the thirty DAX-coded companies is female. This is known as the "glass ceiling" and refers to the phenomenon that highly qualified women get stuck at middle management level when moving up within companies or organisations and do not make it to the executive level, even though they perform at the same level as their male colleagues. The reason why women are promoted less is that they pose a greater risk to companies with the possibility of becoming mothers. Studies show that male supervisors prefer to promote men, as well as that women do less networking and therefore lack important contacts. The difficulty for women to combine career and profession also plays a role here. It is therefore no wonder that 90% of women in top management are childless.

Felizitas Fehr, 37, Insurance Employee

Her workplace is decorated with nine certificates that read "Employee of the Month", of which Felizitas is very proud. Felizitas does not work primarily for the money, no, she does her work out of passion and because she likes her colleagues so much. Every day she spreads a good atmosphere and when there are arguments she acts as a mediator. She is the heart of the open-plan office, so to speak. She knows all the birth dates of her colleagues by heart and she brings a cake for every birthday.

Background (status 2008): Regardless of which economic sector we look at in Switzerland - women everywhere earn less. Basically, it can be said: The higher the level of education, the greater the wage gap. On average, the wage difference is 20 percent. Only one third of this wage difference can be attributed to factors such as industry, education or professional position. The other two thirds are completely unfounded, which means that women simply receive less pay than their male colleagues for the same work.

Frieda Freimut, 26, Neofeminist

Frieda studies gender studies. Together with her friends she has created a blog where she discusses gender issues and tries to influence public opinion. Again and again Frieda points out that gender is only educated. Books like "Why women listen better and men can park better" make her furious. She is slowly getting on the nerves of certain friends, but Frieda does not allow herself to be distracted by this. Besides, she looks after the little daughter next door.

Background (status 2008): "One is not born a woman, one becomes one" is probably the most famous quote by Simone de Beauvoir to which many feminists refer. It wants to say that gender is not primarily biologically determined, but above all socially determined. Younger feminists like Judith Butler even go a step further and deny that sex, the biological sex, has any influence on gender, the socially conditioned sex. They and like-minded thinkers assume that it is social attributions that allow us to experience our own bodies as male or female. In recent years, however, neurological and genetic research that attempts to biologically substantiate the sexes has become increasingly important. There are different views on the extent to which biology and sociology influence each other in relation to gender, and this recursive relationship remains a central conflict in the gender issue.

Karinka Kindl, 32, Writer

Karinka grew up believing she was a normal girl. It wasn't until puberty that she realized she never was. Her body didn't develop the way other girls did. It was not until she was 16 that her parents told her what they had not told her before on medical advice: Karinka has male chromosomes in her cells. It was a shock for her. Karinka's odyssey from one psychiatric clinic to another began with the realization that she was living in an intersex body. Fourteen years later, after years of self-examination, Karinka wrote an autobiography about her search for identity, which she sold as an e-book in a bookstore in Second Live, where it became a bestseller.

Background (status 2008): Only two genders are officially recognised: women and men. However, children are born again and again who do not fit into this man-woman scheme. Therefore they are called intersex. To determine intersex, extensive physical examinations including chromosome analysis are necessary. Many people only find out that they are intersexual at puberty or even later. Some never find out. Estimates of the frequency of intersex vary widely - from 1:100 to 1:2000. Intersex is little known and tabooed. Those affected often suffer from identity conflicts and psychological problems. Hormone treatments and operations on their sexual organs are also common.

Addendum 2020: A lot has happened in the past 12 years. Intersex people have fought a lot for self-determination, acceptance and the removal of taboos. They have stood up against unapproved medical interventions on intersex children and for the acceptance that their bodies are good and right as they are.  In Germany, since 2018 there is officially the third gender entry "divers", in addition to "male" and "female".

Heniko Hehn, 38, Sports Reporter

Heniko is gay, and actually he should be a professional footballer today. But when he came out, his career as a footballer died. He was 17 and on his way to professional football when a teammate caught him holding hands with his boyfriend one day. From then on, his team called him a fag, and the coach gave Heniko a regular place on the substitutes' bench. A few months later he left the team voluntarily. Today he works as a sports reporter and plays in an amateur gay football club.

Background (status 2008): While homosexuality is punishable by death in parts of the world, it has experienced a de-tabooing in Europe: in certain areas, such as fashion or being a hairdresser, it is downright chic to be gay. Politicians come out. In Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, South Africa, Canada and Massachusetts (USA) marriage has been opened up to homosexuals. In Switzerland, homosexuals have been able to register as a couple since 2007. Registration largely puts homosexual couples on an equal footing with married couples. The Partnership Act (PartG) was adopted in 2005 with 58% approval. Despite the growing acceptance, there are still areas that are characterised by homophobia. One of these areas is professional football. The first and, until 2008, only professional footballer to admit his homosexuality disqualified himself from football and committed suicide a few years later. His name was Justin Fashanu and he played for Nottingham Forest.

Bernhard Blau, 42, Administrator

Blau works at the Federal Statistical Office. There he has to enter and manage data all day long. But right now he can't concentrate. He constantly has to think about his one-year-old son, whom he sees so rarely because of his work. He is thrilled that his son has more confidence in his mother and that he can say "mum" but not "dad" yet. But there's nothing to be done about it, he says to himself, and as a consolation he takes a sip of cognac from his flask hidden under the table.

Background (status 2008): In fact, family structures in Switzerland have moved only slightly away from the 50s model. Even today, the man is still seen as the breadwinner and the mother as the main person responsible for the family. Statistics confirm this: 44% of women, but 89% of men work full-time. By contrast, in 87% of couple households with children under 15, the woman is the main person responsible for the household. Only 10% of couple households share the responsibility and in 2% of couple households men are the main person in charge. These structures are supported by the school system, which assumes that children are cooked at lunchtime, the lack of crèche places, the scarcity of paternity leave, the fact that women still earn less and that, after a divorce, they usually receive alimony from their ex-husband. Men who are more committed to the family than to their job do not enjoy a high status. Among single fathers, four-fifths of those who work full-time despite the double burden, while most single mothers work part-time or not at all.

Surface of the original Dollhaus website