Sunday, 20 August 2023

Post Barbie Movie Thoughts On Life by this Chronically Overwhelmed Barbie

A few weeks ago, I - alongside the majority of other women in my age group - went to see the Barbie movie.

I'd heard so much outrage beforehand from angry men with ranty podcasts declaring it to be "man hating propaganda" ...I swear I saw one interview with Piers Morgan almost foaming at the mouth about it,yikes!  I'd also read more than a handful of posts from pearl-clutching Facebook mums fretting about how the movie "Pushes an LGBTQ agenda onto our children", in all honesty, I went in expecting a full throttle woke fest beyond my little feminist left-leaning socialist heart's wildest imaginings. I was pretty excited at the prospect! But of course, that's not what I got at all...turns out these people are rather prone to exaggeration, who knew! (*Sarcasm intended*)

It was a very good movie, don't get me wrong - but I'd put it firmly into the Feminism For Beginners category, and for the life of me I cannot figure out what caused all of the LGBTQ panic - was it really the simple presence of a transgender actress playing a Barbie doll that drove the Facebook mums so wild?! One whose transness was never even referenced during the movie and which went completely unnoticed by the majority of people I've spoken to?! Mind blowing.

But lack of outrageous agenda-pushing aside, I did enjoy the movie for its nostalgic references and it's attempts to both recognise the damage Barbie has done to our body image over years and to do it's bit to make reparations for that with its tongue-in-cheek narrations about Margot Robbie's beauty and it's references to cellulite as the worst thing imaginable to a Barbie.

There was one part of the movie that moved me more than I was expecting though, which has stayed with me ever since.

 A part that even now, weeks later, I keep going over and over in my mind - thinking of all the different ways I relate to it. 

That part was America Ferrera's monologue about the reality of being a woman in our society.

  "It is literally impossible to be a woman"...she began, before going on to explain all of the contradictions and complexities we navigate throughout our lives...

"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 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. 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 into knots so that people will like us."

There are so many levels that I relate to this monologue on, that I don't even know where to start. And just as she so rightly points out,  as well as trying to walk that tightrope of societal expectations myself, I also have to watch the women I know try desperately not to fall off it either as they twist themselves into knots trying to navigate it. 

It IS hard. 

All of us have our different struggles in life - all of us feeling the pressure to do our best, be our best selves, love and care for our children and partners and families as though we don't have anything else that needs our attention because our role as carer is the MOST important thing, but also making sure to succeed in our careers and perform as though we don't have any other ties. Ensuring that we keep ourselves young and beautiful but never being anything other than modest, humble and grateful while our bodies constantly go through changes that leave us physically, emotionally and spiritually spent...but  never, never daring to complain...

Because if we do...we are IMMEDIATELY put back into our places, and told all of the ways in which it is our own doing. That our struggles are the result of a personal failure to manage, to prioritise, to cope...and not only do we hear this from professionals and partners and family, but we so often hear it from each other too.

A quick glance at the comments section on a celebrities social media post or a look through a troll forum will show you that the vast majority of people waiting to tear women down are other women....something I find so incredibly frustrating, and so very sad.

Allow me to share an example of this from my own life. Here in the UK, it's the summer holidays. School children across the country are on a 6 week break, and parents everywhere are feeling the pressure of trying to juggle their workloads with having the kids at home every day.

Trying to keep them entertained and out of trouble, ensuring that they feel loved and that they're having just as much fun as their friends are whilst also finding their way through a cost of living crisis and trying to keep their heads above water on a financial level as well as a social, physical, and emotional one. 

It is a lot. And so of course, women are taking to social media to talk about that reality.  Every time I scroll through my Instagram feed I see videos from parents talking about how hard it is, how much they're struggling, how stressful it is - and I'm so glad that they're doing that, because it's real life.

But even though I know these glimpses into other peoples struggles are supposed to make me feel better about my own...they don't.

Because my reality is a bit different than that. 

My children are home educated - a lifestyle choice I made, and one that I don't regret (most days...). But that means that my life is a "School holidays" sort of life constantly.

The kids are always here. The house is always a mess. The juggle to try to manage work/life/childcare is a daily one. The guilt for having to prioritise work at times is strong and it's constant. The overwhelm from trying to meet everyone's needs all of the time and trying to remember that I have needs too. The exhaustion. The lack of quiet time. The lack of personal space. The urge to keep up with how other home educating families do it all and the way I constantly come up short in my own estimations.

This is how it always is. But the difference is that while the school kids will be heading back in September and life for those families will get back to their "normal"...mine won't be changing. There is no calmer time ahead. There is no time when things are easier to juggle. This is our normal.

And there is just no way to talk about how overwhelming that feels without being constantly made to feel bad about it.  Every time I have tried to in the past I've been put firmly back in to my place.

If I dare to mention that I find it hard, that it overwhelms me, that I don't always enjoy it - then I'm loudly told its my own fault, because I made this choice. I'm told to "put them in school then"!"...AKA don't dare to complain. I'm told to be grateful for the opportunity to make this choice, to look on the bright side...I'm told not to compare because school families have it hard too. I'm told I must be doing it wrong because other home educating don't feel this way, they manage to get it all right....

And we're back to the Barbie speech again.....Don't complain. Don't be selfish. Always love being a mother, never say its hard but don't make it your whole personality. Work like you don't have any children and be successful but don't let your work impact your family life. You must never say its a struggle and you must always be grateful. 

And America Ferrera was right...

It's. Too. Hard.

And this Barbie is chronically overwhelmed.

That doesn't mean I want to change my choices. It doesn't mean I'm never happy with them. It doesn't mean that I want to be told all the ways I could change our lifestyle.

It just means that I want to be allowed to say that I'm struggling too, without being reprimanded.

It should always be ok to tell the truth - to admit that life feels hard and that we're struggling, without being told all of the reasons why it's your own fault and how you could do it differently.

Sometimes we just need to be able to speak our truth and be heard, without wanting to be fixed or saved. Without being made to feel like our struggle isn't valid. 

Spoiler the end of the movie, the Barbies worked together to reclaim Barbie Land from the Ken's idea of patriarchy. 

And it was listening to America's speech about the realities of womanhood and how hard it really is that united them in their anger to come together for the good of Barbiekind.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if allowing womankind to speak freely and openly about our struggles, without us trying to convince each other of all the reasons why they're not valid or trying to tear each other apart for the choices we make, was something that we could do more of in the real world too.

If you enjoy my blog, please consider following me on Bloglovin'
Blogger Template Setup by fazal