top of page

The Barbie Movie Changed My Perspective on Womanhood, and It Might Change Your Perspective Too

A tear rolls off my cheek, down my jawline, and onto my lap. I try to keep my sobs quiet as I’ve been trained as a woman to not show much emotion in public. As the credits roll, the theater lights become brighter and my blinking becomes faster as I want to disguise the fact that I was crying. The familiar tightening in my chest bubbles as I continue to push my emotions down while walking out of the theater. It isn’t until I’m in the safety of my locked car that I can let my emotions out; this is just one of the many instances I’ve experienced as a woman.

Last weekend, I, along with most of America, went to see Greta Gerwig’s box office hit “Barbie”. Prior to entering the theater, I had no idea what to expect; I figured that there would be a lot of clever humor tucked into scenes with great fashion and Margot Robbie’s once-in-a-generation talent. What I didn’t expect was for me to shed many tears both in the theater and for a few days after seeing the film. There are two scenes in particular that really struck a nerve with me and have made me examine my journey through girlhood into womanhood and how I can heal my inner child (warning spoilers ahead).

Growing up, I was always into more feminine and “girly” activities and toys, my most prized possession from the ages of seven to ten was my Barbie Dreamhouse (very on brand for this article, I know). While I was never made to feel embarrassed by my family for liking Barbies, it wasn’t until I aged a bit that liking pink, fashion, and more “girly” things became something to be ashamed of. I slowly became scared to admit to friends that I still enjoyed getting my nails done, I began to discard any dresses and articles of pink clothing sitting in my closet, and I swapped out my interests for more widely accepted things so boys would think I was a cool girl. I felt as though I had to keep any of the feminine characteristics that made up my personality and interests a secret so I wouldn’t be perceived as stupid. As life went on, I realized I had to keep my emotions to myself when out in public as well. If I had an outburst or became frustrated with someone or something, I was PMS-ing, if I was in a leadership role during an extracurricular activity and had to set boundaries, then I was a bitch, if I shed any tears then I was labeled as sensitive. With all of these labels being passed out to me like candy on Halloween, I began to believe that I truly was a “sensitive bitch” and that I wasn’t allowed to speak out of turn or share my opinion about more “intelligent” topics like politics or current events.

In the film, America Ferrera delivers a monologue that describes all of the labels given to women and how they follow you throughout life: “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.”

When the monologue concluded, the theater was so silent you could hear a pin drop. While I couldn’t read the minds of fellow moviegoers in the theater, I felt like the silence represented something clicking in everyone’s brains. For the women in the theater, it was a confirmation that everything we’ve had to endure is finally being recognized, and for the men in the theater, I think, well at least I hope, that it gave them a sliver of an understanding of what it’s like to be a woman and how we’re scrutinized for having feelings.

As we transition from girlhood to womanhood and the semi-truck that is puberty hits us, we feel like we’re the only ones in the world to experience all of those hormones and emotions at once. We want to yell at our moms and tell them “It’s not just a phase, Mom!”, and ignore their wisdom and guidance (yes, she was right about plucking your eyebrows during your tween years), but we seem to forget that it’s our mom’s first time at life too, and she also went through puberty and yelled at our grandmother’s and so on and so forth throughout every generation of women in our families. Even though deep down I’ve known that it’s my mother’s first time experiencing life, it wasn’t until Rhea Perlman’s character, Ruth, said one of the most profound lines in the whole movie that I fully realized that my mom is also experiencing womanhood; she states that “We mothers stand still so our daughters can look back to see how far they have come.” When I heard that line, hot tears streamed down my face and I wanted to run into my mother’s arms and apologize for every terrible thing I said and every time I ignored her opinion. I know that every mother makes mistakes on varying levels, my mom is guilty of this too, but for the first time in my life, it hit me like a ton of bricks that my mom has given up so much to raise me and my sister, and my grandmother gave up even more to raise my mom and my aunt.

As stated in America’s monologue, the system of being a woman is rigged, even if we’re doing everything right and we’re following societal standards, it’s never enough because we’ve been taught to compare ourselves to other women. While the Barbie movie didn’t solve every issue women have ever faced, I think that it put a lot of the things women have silently struggled through into words. My hope for women after seeing Barbie, is that we can break free from the labels that are given to us for experiencing normal human emotions and simply existing.

I’m constantly inspired by the women I work with at Called to Create Studios, and wanted to include some of my favorite images that capture their creativity, beauty, and the essence of womanhood.


bottom of page