⬇️If you follow me on any social media you saw my original HYPE post about Barbie... ⬇️
This Barbie movie has stirred significant discussions within our Empowered RX community, inciting conversations on a range of controversial subjects. The movie touches upon vital themes like gender stereotypes, entrenched patriarchal structures, and misogyny. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that the impact of such weighty matters should transcend the confines of a mere cinematic creation, such as the iconic Barbie doll.
In response, we engaged in a spirited event, a "Barbell Barbie" workout where we embraced our inner child, dressed in vibrant pink attire. There was singing, dancing and celebration. The movie's astounding commercial success prompted a collective rush toward embracing the color pink, a phenomenon that even I, myself, found myself drawn into.
This consumerist surge, though, raises a pertinent question: do societal concerns truly necessitate a popular pink doll to spur genuine care and action?
Our experience at the movie was remarkably enjoyable. It resonated profoundly with shared experiences within our community, invoking genuine recognition. But, in the days following the screening and subsequent dialogues, a sense of unease lingered. It became evident that the film's impact might not be as profound as initially perceived.
The longing for overdue recognition of pertinent issues propelled women's engagement everywhere. It's literally being talked about everywhere. Went to get coffee, the cashiers were discussing it. Arrive at the gym? We all exchanged thoughts over our favorite parts. You cannot scroll through social media without seeing a Barbie related post every few seconds. Barbie has taken over.
This eagerness inadvertently exposes our vulnerability to a well-crafted marketing strategy by Mattel, reminiscent of their initial introduction of Barbie. The inception of the Barbie doll initially seemed to signal a break from conventional norms, offering alternatives beyond the realm of baby dolls. Yet, the movie's portrayal has again led us down a somewhat predefined path, highlighting an array of possibilities, but ones that remain firmly tethered to roles still dictated by the patriarchal framework.
While the film does confront the concept of patriarchy and, notably, resists relinquishing the dream house to Ken's dominion, it does so within a scope of representation that falls short of true enlightenment. The movie includes a token array of Black, Asian, and 1 larger-bodied Barbie, along with a female president whose main objective is to bring back happiness and girls nights! Yay! These instances, while attempts at inclusivity, barely scratch the surface of genuine progressivism and fail to eradicate implicit biases.
Such themes have been the cornerstone of our discussions at Empowered RX, inherent to our mission of female empowerment since the beginning of our program years ago. We've encountered internal debates stemming from the movie, which lead us to contemplate deeper questions.
Why does Mattel continue to profit from the anguish women have carried for generations?
Does the company's self-derision serve to absolve its historical implications?
Can society, at large, only digest basic feminist ideas?
And, is the portrayal of a single larger-bodied woman sufficient, or does it merely camouflage a systemic issue?
Our observation of this juncture in women's progress reveals a modest advancement in reclaiming Barbie's image. However, the essence of Barbie, collectively, remains ensnared in gendered stereotypes despite this apparent awakening.
The film's narrative, although intending to confront these stereotypes, ultimately perpetuates them. This reality emerges as a creation of the very patriarchal structure it seeks to challenge.
Amid this contemplation, the glaring absence of diverse Barbie personas becomes apparent. The realm of possibilities for Barbie remains confined, devoid various other identities that reflect the multifaceted realities of women's lives. Where is the punk barbie? The barbie that hates pink? The gay barbie? The down syndrome barbie? The bi-sexual barbie? The trans barbie? The truck driver barbie? The bi-racial barbie? The aging barbie? The Grandma Barbie? The widow barbie? The trauma survivor barbie? The barbie that wears no make-up? The androgynous barbie? Assertive political barbie? Barbie living in an average body? Body with acne and scars? Veteran barbie? Social activist barbie? Pilot barbie? You get the jist.
This underscores a failure to address broader societal nuances, which could truly awaken the essence of "woke."
The turning point in my perception came during a lunch with my amazing Grandmothers, and best friends as we sat in the sunlight at their living community. I shared a concise rendition of the originally positive thoughts expressed in my first social media posts, and her insights proved transformative.
Growing up during the feminist movement, she had witnessed Barbie's emergence—a figure defined through the lens of the male gaze.
Barbie, she noted, emerged as a slender, blonde icon, with screaming sensuality through revealing attire and heels. This realization starkly juxtaposed with Barbie's proclaimed "endless possibilities." My grandmother questioned why Barbie remained perpetually youthful and glamorous, fulfilling predefined gender roles.
This conversation resonated deeply, prompting my brain to start doing flips. My personal history with Barbies, or lack thereof, exemplified her point. My grandmothers discouraged the acquisition of Barbies, instead urging me to embrace authenticity.
My own fortuitous experiences were juxtaposed against my grandmother's challenges as a queer, Jewish woman working in upper management during an era antagonistic to such identities. She embodies the very dissonance between Mattel's messaging and the real-world struggles of women.
The conversation prompted me to question the ongoing struggle against the patriarchal paradigm. While we strive for essential rights like personal safety and autonomy, larger societal constructs divert our energies. These distractions—be it judgments on clothing or consent—are symptomatic of a broader, capitalist, and patriarchal structure. They deter us from focusing on more pressing matters, preventing genuine liberation.
Consider the cascade of consumerism. Young girls frequently spend their allowances on branded clothing or cosmetics, reflecting the manipulation of societal expectations. Our eagerness to align with the themes of the Barbie movie echoes this consumerist culture. However, this apparent shift may merely symbolize our communal slumber, rather than a profound awakening.
In these moments, and in so many throughout my life, my grandmother emerges as a beacon of enlightenment, proof of wisdom and resilience. Her life experiences encapsulate the incongruence between societal ideals and lived realities, reinforcing that the true path to emancipation involves transcending the shackles of capitalism and patriarchy. This is just one of the many reasons I am forever grateful for her. She has instilled all the values in me that have allowed me to pursue this career path as an entrepreneur in women's empowerment and anti-diet culture.
In retrospect, the allure of the Barbie movie revealed a need to redefine the narrative of women's empowerment. The path to liberation must extend beyond surface-level representation and mere acceptance within predefined roles.
A tall, slim blonde, wearing a revealing outfit, high-heels and dripping in sex appeal. Barbie didn't replace the babydoll... she created a hierarchy of dolls... one that forced out any phase of womanhood that didn't represent the male desire- youth, beauty and hollow... With moldable plastic and naiive interests, Barbie is an empty surface level version of what women truly are and deserve to be.
"But barbie can be anything she wants to be".... "that's the point."
I mentioned to my grandmother... and she had a great point..
"Well Leah, why is Barbie a flight attendant and not a pilot?"
The Barbie movie made a lot of us spend money on pink stuff, just like Mattel wanted. The movie made us cry and feel seen as we collectively shelled out a billion bucks to be served a different form of patriarchal pressure on a silver platter. Mattel restructured their messaging to "keep up with the times" but has retained certain shades of patriarchal messaging that are still quite toxic.
Rather than look to the Barbie dolls and a consumer driven market to learn about who we are or what we are capable of, all we need to do is sit down with the women who truly paved the way. They will reflect the possibility of everything we can be and deserve to be. they will hold space for us to explore who we are while sitting in the trenches with us. They will shine a light on everything we have been made to believe constitutes freedom that isn't.