I recently watched the new Barbie movie. I must say: I am intrigued by the power of storytelling.
Who would have thought that in 2023, a female movie director (Greta Gerwig) would take the doll that has for decades instilled patriarchal thoughtware into girls at a young age, Barbie, and use storytelling to make Patriarchy plainly visible to the “mainstream”?
I didn’t consider that possible.
It shows me that hacking existing culture is a Possibility.
The plot goes something like this:
Standard Barbie – blond, skinny, long legs, blue eyes – lives in Barbieworld where everything is perfect. Suddenly she starts thinking about death and her feet, usually perfectly shaped to fit into high-heels, go “flat”, and she also gets cellulite. She is horrified. It turns out that she has to go through the portal into the human world to find the girl that is playing with her. So, she does. Ken comes along.
In the human world, Patriarchy rules. Ken is thrilled, Barbie is shocked. At the top of Mattel, the company making Barbie, a bunch of patriarchal men rules, clearly using Barbie to make sure their world stays in order.
Back in Barbieland, Ken brings Patriarchy plainly in. All of a sudden, the previous Matriarchy like system is turned into the opposite: Patriarchy rules, and the women that were previously in charge are like Zombies serving their men. Barbie makes a plan to overthrow the system and create a new system, together with other women.
There’s a speech to women by one of the main characters, Gloria, which is a form of dragon speaking. It snaps every woman that hears it out of her Zombie-state:
“It is literally impossible to be a woman.
You are so beautiful, and so smart, and it kills me that you don’t think you’re good enough. Like, we have to always be extraordinary, but somehow we’re always doing it wrong.
You have to be thin, but not too thin. And you can never say you want to be thin. You have to say you want to be healthy, but also you have to be thin. You have to have money, but you can’t ask for money because that’s crass. You have to be a boss, but you can’t be mean. You have to lead, but you can’t squash other people’s ideas. You’re supposed to love being a mother, but don’t talk about your kids all the damn time. You have to be a career woman, but also always be looking out for other people. You have to answer for men’s bad behavior, which is insane, but if you point that out, you’re accused of complaining.
You’re supposed to stay pretty for men, but not so pretty that you tempt them too much or that you threaten other women because you’re supposed to be a part of the sisterhood. But always stand out and always be grateful. But never forget that the system is rigged. So find a way to acknowledge that but also always be grateful. You have to never get old, never be rude, never show off, never be selfish, never fall down, never fail, never show fear, never get out of line. It’s too hard! It’s too contradictory and nobody gives you a medal or says thank you! And it turns out in fact that not only are you doing everything wrong, but also everything is your fault.
I’m just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us. And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing women, then I don’t even know.”
I feel glad that this is coming through. It’s like a first step out of Patriarchy for mainstream culture – where it is not about returning to Matriarchy or keeping Patriarchy, but inventing a new culture: Where women are in their authority, and men are in theirs by finding out who they are when they are not in Matriarchy or Patriarchy, neither dependent on being adored by nor on overpowering women.
The movie gives a hint on how it goes: It is women’s job to support each other to get out of Patriarchy.
Women’s Rage Club helps Women to make that first step of reclaiming their authority in real life.
After all, every movie is just a story and nothing changes, unless we start acting differently.