The Barbie movie had me all in my thoughts about femininity.
I never thought I would be having deep conversations with my friends about the Barbie movie. For one thing, I didn’t have a Barbie doll growing up. Barbie and Barbie’s Dreamhouse were what my rich neighbor kids had. My mom wouldn’t even buy me Count Chocula cereal—she said it would rot my teeth—so no way was she buying me plastic dolls—she’d probably have said they would rot my mind. She was trying to keep me in shoes and coats, so rich girl dolls were not on the table. All this to say that when I first saw there was a Barbie movie coming out I was like, probably not going to see it.
Then when I saw Barbie was being pitted against Oppenheimer on opening night I was like well I’m definitely going to see it now. I’m for sure throwing my support behind the girl movie over the atomic bomb movie. This was only further solidified when I read the movie’s totally a take down of the patriarchy. Then my friend’s daughter schooled us on Barbie as a cultural icon, starting with the fact Barbie’s Dreamhouse was her own Dreamhouse. It belonged to her and her alone. Ken just came to visit. Barbie and her Dreamhouse was about a woman having her own shit. I, who dreamed of having my own house and car long before it became reality, didn’t even snap to that before now.
All that to say, my friends and I donned our pink and went the movie theater on Saturday night.
It was so cool seeing all the Barbie moviegoers in their pink. Pink shirts, pink cowboy hats, pink halter tops, pink glasses. Some guys were showing support for the women in their lives with pink apparel, too.
After the movie, my friends and I hit up our favorite watering hole. And that’s when the deep discussions started. The main theme—relationship to femininity.
A recent It’s Been a Minute podcast explores this idea that Barbie and her fans celebrate a type of hyper-femininity, and how that’s been vilified.
I thought about the first time I perceived that a girl who was kind of boyish—a “tomboy” — was always preferable in society than a boy who was kind of “girly.” That meant, of course, that masculinity was valued, and femininity was not. In fact, sometimes femininity, especially the abundance of it, was abhorred. That can cause some serious complications for anyone trying to balance their masculine and feminine sides. One reaction is to suppress one’s femininity, for fear of not being taken seriously, or worse, being preyed upon. I’ve sure as hell done this, sometimes deliberately, sometimes without even thinking about it.
Then there’s the conundrum of trying to unpack the desire to look pretty for oneself from the need to appease someone else. This became particularly thorny for me growing up and looking to date straight boys. (Who am I kidding, it’s still an issue.)
Tween me loved the Betty and Veronica comics, especially the fashion. Omigosh, the Summer Fun and Christmas Spectacular issues? I couldn’t wait to grow up and wear those swimsuits and boots and skirts and long luscious coats. Poor Mom was doing some serious hand wringing over her pre-teen daughter aspiring to oversexualized objectification. I get where she was coming from, because I had plenty of time later to stress out and obsess over whether I was pretty enough for boys. (And boy, did I obsess.) Yet her reaction also had me thinking that wanting to look pretty must be a bad thing. It’s taken lots of introspection to realize it’s not.
Coming into adulthood, I found I used Halloween as a chance to dress ultra femme and get away with it. No one could accuse me of not being actually feminine enough to dress feminine, nor could they tell me I was being too feminine, too sexy, too girly (seriously, listen to this It’s Been a Minute episode). I mean, damn, do I really need an excuse, a once a year occasion to express my feminine side? That’s a part of the whole Barbie aesthetic I didn’t think about before. No one needs an excuse.
The movie takes it even further. It puts forth the fact that one’s sexuality exists independent of a relationship to a partner, particularly to a cisgender straight man.
So, yeah, because of the Barbie movie, my friends and I had all these deep AF conversations about our experiences with our childhoods, our femininity, and our personal relationship to it all.
Then we had to take a break from all that soul baring and talk about the music.
Remember this hit “Closer to Fine” by The Indigo Girls? Along with Tracy Chapman, I think of this as the closing of the 80s, ushering in of women musicians who weren’t trying to be anybody’s sex object.
What can I say? I love angry young white male songs, too.
Did you see the Barbie movie? Did you find it as thought provoking as I did? Let me know in the comments or on socials.