Patriarchy is the term used to describe the male-dominated and engineered society in which we live today, which has been formed by both historical and current unequal power relations between men and women. This bias towards men means that women are both systematically disadvantaged and oppressed. Therefore, attributes seen as “feminine” or pertaining to women are undervalued, while attributes regarded as “masculine”, or pertaining to men are privileged and held in reverence.
Patriarchy has been in existence for millennia across societies and its presence has influenced relationships, the workplace, families, schools, culture, beliefs, and values embedded in social, economic, and political systems that further structure and reinforce gender inequality between men and women. With such patriarchal ideologies already embedded in those who create film comes in writing, the male is the strong, confident heroine and the female characters are there to serve his story.
Something that has come from this is ‘the male gaze’. Where women are hyper-sexualised and objectified, for the heterosexual male fantasy. With films like this that are written by men for men, women and young girls struggle to envision themselves as anything other than an accessory to men.
However, this is why the new Barbie movie is so significant as it is a film directed by women for women. Director Greta Gerwig, who is known for her feminist films such as ‘Little Women’ and ‘Lady Bird’, has switched the gender norms of society by having ‘Barbie-land’ a female-dominated utopia, controlled by female presidents, engineers, doctors, teachers and Nobel prize winners with the men, otherwise known as ‘the kens’, are just there existing, being the ‘accessory’ to the barbies.
The film is bursting with feminist themes centred around womanhood and the female experience with issues such as harassment, sexual assault, upholding impossible beauty standards and women's health. All things that aren’t talked about enough within society. With feminist topics being showcased on the big screen and women not being objectified by costuming or camera angles, it paves the way for women to feel validated and empowered and will spur exciting, educational conversations between parents and kids about why we don’t live in a world in which women have as much power as they do in Barbie-land due to patriarchy, and why it is a problem for anyone, no matter their gender, to be made to feel like an accessory and more.
The film finishes perfectly, highlighting that both men and women can deconstruct the patriarchal society and live in a world where both are equal. Or as Barbie likes to put it, going to see a gynaecologist.
Barbie is currently screening until Thu 3 Aug.
Maya Mitchell has just graduated from the University of West of Scotland with a BA Hons in Performance.