**Title: Rethinking Barbie and Femininity: A Cultural Perspective**
**Breaking Free from Gender Stereotypes: A Mother’s Journey**
Growing up, I had enjoyed playing with Barbie dolls, staging fantastical domestic dramas and creating fashion statements. However, as a feminist and a mother, I was determined to raise my daughter without the gendered stereotypes that Barbie embodied. I wanted to shield her from the shallow expectations set by Disney princesses waiting to be rescued. Rejecting Barbie seemed like the feminist thing to do. Little did I know that my perspective would shift and the resurgence of Barbie would make me question my aversion to her.
**Barbie: A Cultural Proxy for Womanhood**
Barbie has long served as a cultural symbol onto which society projects its aspirations and anxieties about womanhood. The doll, introduced in 1959, once stood for the ambition of independent career women, encouraging girls to aspire beyond motherhood. In subsequent years, however, Barbie lost her progressive message and became synonymous with unrealistic beauty standards and a focus on appearance over substance. It was easy to criticize Barbie as a representation of patriarchal beauty ideals that perpetuated unfair expectations for women.
**The Rise of Femmephobia: Disparagement of Feminine Qualities**
My own rejection of Barbie reflected the femmephobia that exists in our society—a dislike or hostility towards stereotypically feminine qualities. Femininity is often devalued compared to masculinity, with traditionally masculine traits hailed as the norm for both genders. Emotional expressiveness and interdependence, which are deemed feminine, are belittled or seen as deviant. This bias influences how we perceive and judge interests and pursuits coded as feminine, such as fashion, as frivolous compared to more “serious” masculine interests like sports.
**Barbie and the Celebration of Femininity**
Trans feminist author Julia Serano argues that discrimination against trans women is not solely due to their gender identity, but also because they openly perform femininity. Society struggles with the celebration of femininity, perceiving it as a challenge to the glorification of maleness and masculinity. By embracing their femininity, trans women challenge established gender norms. This perception is crucial in understanding the ongoing conversation about femininity’s respectability.
**The Potential for Feminism in Barbie’s Evolution: The “Barbie” Movie**
The upcoming “Barbie” movie, despite being cautious to label itself as feminist, demonstrates a willingness to explore Barbie’s world through a political lens. The inclusion of Greta Gerwig, known for her feminist films, as the writer and director, along with the casting of LGBTQ+ community members like Kate McKinnon and Hari Nef, suggests a broader acceptance of diversity. The portrayal of Barbie in the movie, by Margot Robbie, embodies a hyperbolic femininity that blurs the line between a sincere role model and queer camp.
**Barbie as a Reflection of the Current Cultural Climate**
In a time when anti-feminist conservatism threatens progress and LGBTQ+ visibility coexists with increased violence, the release of the “Barbie” movie feels particularly timely. The film intersects with ongoing discussions about gender and sexuality in our society. As I have personally come to understand my own femininity and reject internalized femmephobia, I am compelled to give Barbie another chance. Watching the movie with my daughter will symbolize embracing femininity for purposes beyond societal expectations or attracting men.
In conclusion, my journey as a mother seeking to break free from gender stereotypes led me to reject Barbie in the past. However, as I reconsider the cultural significance of femininity and the evolving portrayal of Barbie, I am open to exploring her world once again. With the upcoming “Barbie” movie on the horizon, I see an opportunity to challenge restrictive gender norms and celebrate diverse expressions of femininity. Barbie may no longer be the antithesis of feminism but an embodiment of its evolution.