Greta Gerwig’s Barbie is currently the (pink!) hot topic of conversation – and I absolutely loved it! It is a clever statement film, with a profound exploration of womanhood and the societal pressures and expectations that are placed on women. For me, it is a film that is 'spot on' in highlighting the intricacies and contradictions of being a woman – and it certainly hit a nerve!
But there is one scene in particular that stands out – a scene everyone is talking about across social media and in endless media column inches – and one that truly reflects the countless paradoxes and relentless demands that as women we have to navigate daily.
Towards the end of the film Mattel employee Gloria (America Ferrera) travels back to Barbie Land with Barbie, and to help her through her existential crisis she delivers an astonishingly astute and empowering monologue about the contradictions of being a modern women in today’s world. Forgive me the spoiler as I give you the entire transcript here. It’s just too good not to!
“It is literally impossible to be a woman,” Gloria tells Barbie. “You are so beautiful, and so smart, and it kills me that you don’t think you’re good enough. Like, we always have to 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 quash 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 behaviour, 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 in 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.”
Powerful words, and I raced home to tell my three daughters to go and see it – and to take their boyfriends – because every line and every single sentiment resonated with me, as I’m sure they have with most women finding their way in today’s society.
These are words that shine a glaring spotlight on the societal pressures and expectations we face as women, but they also serve as a gallant reminder that they are in no way a reflection of our personal shortcomings.
More than anything, this film has reassured me that it's okay to acknowledge that being a woman is hard. It's okay to voice frustrations and fears. And it's absolutely vital that we continue to challenge these societal expectations – because if a doll can spur this much dialogue, just imagine what we, as women, can achieve.