The Barbie Movie is Facing the Same Criticism Feminism Has for Decades

 I finally got around to watching the Barbie movie, and what better way to compile all my thoughts about it than in a blog post. The long awaited film of the summer did not disappoint. From catchy tunes that I am still singing to myself, to amazing costumes and set design, the movie was something of a dream. Greta Gerwig, director of Barbie and other films like Little Women and Lady Bird captured both a flawless critique and praise of the childhood toy. Gerwig shed light on both the unrealistic body and beauty standards Barbies set, while also showing the empowerment the toy has given girls. The movie went so much deeper than just bringing Barbie to the real world, it captured the basic ideas of feminism through a toy which has sparked a lot of feminist debate. 

I was interested after watching the movie to hear from critics. The loudest critics so far have included conservatives who feel the movie is too “woke”. They say the movie is just two-straight hours of man-hating. This isn’t a new complaint. Anytime women get the stage to express their concerns, conservative men see it as an attack on their character and power. 

Think about this quote Twitter user @elliebotoman wrote. It reads,  “‘Why do feminists hate men?’ Why does a movement for women become so misunderstood to the point where it’s all about men?” This idea perfectly sums up why critics dislike the Barbie movie. Those who complain about the movie dissing men are the same people who lump together feminism and misandry. Feminism has never been about man-hating. Feminism has been about wanting equality for everyone (men and women included). 

Let me explain. At the beginning of the movie, we see Barbieland as a feminine utopia. All the Barbies have their own dream houses, nobel prizes, revered professions, and close female friendships. When Ken asks Barbie to stay over at her dreamhouse, she shrugs him off, adding that the Barbies are having a girls’ night. It’s implied that every night is girls’ night. In Barbie Land women have established a matriarchal society. One that excludes the Kens. The Kens cheer on the Barbies rather than actively participating in the structure of society.

Later on in the movie, we see the distinction between the matriarchal structure of Barbie Land and the patriarchal establishment of the Real World. The two are very different, but have one thing in common, both worlds exclude members of society. Barbie Land excludes Kens from positions of power, and the Real World excludes women from positions of power. As soon as Ken witnesses patriarchal power he knows what he must do; he sees it as his one solution for gaining more power in Barbie Land. So to get back the power he feels to have lost, Ken excludes the Barbies just as they disincluded him. 

The movie follows the basic principles of feminism. It’s astonishing to me how the movie only covered the basics of feminism and still struck such a chord with critics. It didn’t begin to address the gender pay gap, period poverty, and maternal health care along with many other issues feminism covers. The movie is basically saying that neither a fully feminine and fully masculine world is good for anyone. Gerwig isn’t proposing a fully feminine world run only by women- then we are just doing what men have done to us for centuries. Instead, Gerwig is following the idea that feminism is about equality for everyone. However, by proposing that Barbie is a man-hating movie bent on putting only women in charge is again establishing the idea that feminism revolves around men. 

Allen is the odd-ball of the movie, right? He is ignored by the Kens even though he is of the same sex. This means that establishing an equal society isn’t just about enlisting the help of only women. There are men who have been blacklisted from the patriarchal society because they don’t seek to gain positions of power on the backs of the minority. Instead, they use the privilege they have to ally themselves with those with lesser power. Allen uses his “strength” to fight off the construction workers who are trying to build a wall between the Real World and Barbie Land. He used his privilege, in this case physical strength, to ally himself with the people he knows will eventually fix Barbie Land. Even from the start, Allen was comfortable in a matriarchal society making him an outsider among the Kens. When given the opportunity to gain power just by being male, Allen didn’t choose it. He knew that true power isn’t obtained through building unfair systems. 

I can’t say I am surprised the Barbie movie has faced backlash from far-right conservatives who see a patriarchal society as their only option. They fear giving women a fair shot at power will turn the world into a fully feminine society. The Barbie movie showed what feminists have been saying for decades. Giving women a fair shot at power will not turn the world into a hyper-feminine society. Women who have been put down for so long know that equality for all people is the best way forward. Feminism has never been about man-hating. It’s always been about derigging the system.

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