SPOILER ALERT: If you still need to watch the new Barbie movie (2023) and want to avoid spoilers, close out this tab!
This article is for those of us who experienced an existential crisis while identifying our cognitive dissonance via the Barbie movie. I laughed, cried, and laughed-cried. The Barbie movie is an incredible watch for those supporting midwifery and motherhood. After spending my life empowering women, here are my thoughts immediately following the Barbie movie.
Smashing the Patriarchy- Barbie Style
It was poignant when Sasha said, “Everyone hates women. Women hate women, and men hate women. It’s the only thing we can agree on.” The theme of women bearing a burden that few discuss is wrapped in pink plastic and shining smiles. Interestingly, the only way to save the Barbies was to give a voice to the cognitive dissonance it takes to be a woman under the patriarchy.
But let’s not forget what the patriarchy means for men too. The Barbie movie is not anti-men. It is anti-patriarchy. The patriarchal system doesn’t benefit anyone, including men, as it forces men to live up to societal expectations that are likely unfulfilling. Men may keep women down in a patriarchy, but the Kens prove that men keep men down too.
Feminism and the Barbie Movie
Walking into the Barbie movie, I knew I would have all the feels, but as someone who has done quite a bit of reading surrounding dismantling the patriarchy- I knew this would be basic Feminism 101. However, those of us who are deep in social justice work need to remember where we started. We misunderstand the intended audience of the monologue that Gloria gives to Barbie.
Gloria verbalizes the feelings that have been bubbling up among women for generations. It felt like she was speaking to the younger version of herself who played with Barbies. The version of ourselves that we each once were. The speech is inspiring yet simmers with the rage of being a woman today.
The happy ending includes Barbie restoring order to Barbieland and the Kens wanting to share power roles. The quip is that eventually, one day, the Kens can have as much power as women in the real world. I paused at this because it resonated. Is it because it has taken women so long to gain power in the United States? Is it because we still have so far to go before things are genuinely egalitarian?
Midwifery, Motherhood, and the Barbie Movie
At the movie’s end, Barbie doesn’t feel like she belongs. When talking to Ruth Handler, the inventor of Barbie, she learns that Ruth created Barbies, so she shouldn’t have an ending. “Humans only have one ending. Ideas live forever.” The Barbie movie shows how massively impossible it can feel to change anything, but it gives you the twinkle of hope that someone has got to try.
As a certified nurse-midwife, my heart soared that newly human Barbie supported reproductive wellness exams with her brand new lady parts by making her first stop at the gynecologist. (Nurse practitioners and certified nurse-midwives are also fantastic care providers!) In a world where so many women are shamed regarding their reproductive health, it was another reminder that Barbie has shown us that women can do anything.
I choked and sobbed- the ugly and noisy tears flowing freely (and loudly) in a quiet theater, as did my best friend. Both of our daughters didn’t understand why we were crying so hard.
And I hope when they grow up and watch the same speech, they are living in a world where they never understand why we cried.
“We mothers stand still so our daughters can look backward to see how far they’ve come.”
The Barbie movie is rated PG-13, and from an age-rating perspective, most of the adult themes flew right over my daughter’s head. I truly enjoyed the perspective of the Barbie movie through the lens of midwifery and motherhood.