Leadership Lessons from The Barbie MovieAug 07, 2023
Whether you liked, disliked or are indifferent toward The Barbie Movie, I thought after viewing it that there were some positive lessons in the movie and some points I felt more doubt about. Overall, the movie’s premise is that, in Barbie Land, the women have accomplished countless advancements for womankind. They believe that because they’ve done so much there, it’s that way everywhere. But Barbie discovers that in the real world things are not as they are in Barbie Land. Similarly, Ken also discovers he’s treated very differently in the real world than he is in Barbie Land.
In reflecting on these overall takeaways, I liked how the characters powerfully didn’t self-deprecate and they supported one another from the heart. That was refreshing. Then, on the other hand, one of the things I didn’t really like was the way the indoctrinated and not indoctrinated used the current system to try to change the system. I question if we should be doing that in the real world, and what else we’re doing that may only be perpetuating stereotypes. Let’s talk about this and a whole lot more.
“It’s also rooted in the collective misinterpretations about who we’re all supposed to be… What kind of judgments do we hold against each other?... What is it that we do that separates us from one another–that we perpetuate the stereotypes that we resent?... It’s so baked in.” – Kris Plachy
What You’ll Learn
- Responses to not self-deprecating
- Indoctrinated versus not indoctrinated
- Infiltration method
- True support from the heart
- Impact of avoidance
- Collective misinterpretations
- Balance in the end
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Let's talk about Barbie. I'm so excited to talk to you about this podcast. Let's go.
Welcome to The Leadership Is Feminine Podcast. How could I have a podcast called Leadership Is Feminine and not talk about the Barbie movie? Seriously, right? You know that I, this has to happen. I don't know what your thoughts are about the Barbie movie. But I would invite you, regardless of your thoughts. So if you saw it and you didn't like it, if you saw it, you loved it, you saw it, you thought it was, eh, whatever, stay tuned.
Let's just talk about this for a second because I actually think there are some really powerful lessons in this movie, some that were positive and I think some that I was like, "Oh, I don't know about that". And I thought I would just have the conversation here with you and share my thoughts with you. Of course, I always, I'd love to know what you think, but-
So if you're not familiar with the Barbie movie, it just came out. It was produced and directed by a woman. She's an incredible director. She did Lady Bird, little women. She has a really beautiful perspective, I think. And I think she's done a really great job with a movie that I think a lot of us thought would just be a Barbie movie, right?
So Barbie was created by Ruth Handler, long ago, back during World War II, and she created it after watching her daughter play with paper dolls. Mattel decided to make toy furniture and it just all sort of came together. And so she created Barbie and she named Barbie after her daughter. Her daughter's name was Barbara.
And then Barbie, as many of you know, just became sort of the stereotypical, quintessential woman. And over the years, Barbie got to do all the things. Barbie got to be a president, a Supreme Court justice, a doctor, a vet, a construction worker. There was every kind of Barbie you can think of. And so the movie was super fun because showed all those differences of the different kinds of Barbies.
And then it it also highlighted the Barbie dolls that didn't make it like Midge, who was the pregnant Barbie. Which apparently people were not comfortable with being a pregnant Barbie. Anyway, it was all tongue in cheek. It was well done, but there was a definite message, which is that in Barbieland, where all the Barbies are, they think that they have done all this incredible work for women. Because in Barbie land, women are everything. Women are the president. They're the Supreme Court. They own all the houses. They have beautiful cars, and vans, and swimming pools. And women are so much better because Barbie advanced their purpose, who they are in the world.
And so then there's this clash of the world because Barbie goes into the world with Ken and very quickly realizes that women are not the same in the real world as they are at Barbieland, and they're objectified and hooted at and not listened to. Where Ken, who is objectified and not listened to, and you know, just Ken in Barbieland, in the real world is regarded and people listen to him and he learns about the patriarchy and all the things.
So he decides the patriarchy is a really good thing. He goes back to Barbie-landand implements it. And then all of the Barbies that are in Barbie-land become enamored with this idea that the patriarchy could be in control, and then they don't have to be leaders anymore. And it's so nice to have other people make decisions for them. So it's as I said, it's tongue in cheek, but the point is made that we have a long way to go is the point. That was my takeaway.
And so there were a few though, really interesting takeaways that I took from the movie. The first one was that I, what I loved was at the very beginning of the movie, there's a scene where all of the Barbies are talking to each other, and one Barbie will say to the other Barbie, "Oh my gosh, you look so beautiful today."
And that Barbie would say, "I know. I am beautiful."
And then another Barbie would say to the Nobel Peace Prize Barbie, "Wow, you, you worked hard to earn that peace prize. That's so wonderful."
And the Nobel Peace Prize Barbie would say, "I know. I've earned this. I deserve this."
And so that echoed throughout the scene and it was really powerful to watch women not self-deprecate, not apologize for their success, not make it meaningless, not diminish themselves. But acknowledge, "I know, right? This is so cool. I know, I am beautiful. I know, I'm so smart." And how, like, listen to what happens in your head when you hear me even say it. Because in general, we're not taught to do that. So it's an interesting concept to be proud of who you are and to acknowledge that and thank people when they see it too. Like, "Yeah, I'm actually pretty cool. Thank you. I'm really proud of myself."
So if you hear that and it's uncomfortable for you, just ask yourself why. Is it because you're being immodest? You're not being humble enough? Are you being arrogant? My belief as women is that in order to stand strong in our leadership, we have to have that kind of confidence. We don't need to have arrogance. We can have confidence. And we can acknowledge our own success just as much as somebody else can. And we don't have to make ourselves, and them, feel comfortable with our success by diminishing our success. "Oh, I know I won them Nobel Peace Prize, but it's, you know, I mean, it was a collective effort." So that was the first thing I was like, be proud of who you are.
One of the things that I didn't love was there was a scene where they come back, Barbie comes back and Ken has taken over her house and Barbie-landis now Ken-land and it's hysterical. And also, the point is well-made, and there's monster trucks everywhere and TVs everywhere, horses. Anyway, it's really funny and they were trying to figure out, because all the Barbies that were left behind were indoctrinated with the patriarchy very quickly, and they had lost who they were.
The president was no longer interested in being the president. The Supreme Court was no longer all the things. They just sort of lost it. And they were very happy to just let someone else be in charge. And so the Barbies who were not indoctrinated were trying to figure out what to do. And so what they did though is they came up with a plan where they would send in one of the not indoctrinated Barbies, and they would ask her and she would have to pretend to be indoctrinated to get the man's attention. So that then, the other Barbie who was indoctrinated could get taken off, get deprogrammed with the other Barbies. And so what they did is they used the patriarchy to change the patriarchy.
So one woman would go up to one of the Ken dolls and say, "Oh, I just, it's so hard for me to read a map. Can you help me?" Or, "Oh, this, this is so complicated. Can you help me figure it out?" Or she would, stand in front of him and be really beautiful and distract him. All of the things that are very stereotypical of the difference between men and women.
I didn't love that. I understand it and it was a movie, and so it's not like it's real life. But I also think it makes a bigger point that I wrote quite a bit about over the weekend. Which is that forced me to ask myself this very interesting question that, can we solve the problems that come with an embedded system built on advancing and highlighting males, that has traditionally diminished the value of women.
Now, listen, you can take your stance wherever you want on that. I just want you to- you have to agree with me that that has been the truth for a very long time. Whether you still think it's the truth or not, I'm not here to argue with you about that, but what I am curious about is, is it possible that we have been trying to advocate for more balance between the masculine and the feminine by using the masculine approach? And I had an interesting chat with my mom about this yesterday and she said, "Well, that's how you have to, you have to get in in order to change it."
I'm like, do we? Because that, in and of itself, there's a mechanism of a masculine patriarchical approach that you have to infiltrate to fix, to resolve. Is that true? I don't know. Is anything that we think about the way that we do things, the only way to do it? Or is it just that this is how it's always been done and so we think it's should be done this way? I don't know the answer, but what I didn't love was how that was portrayed.
I think as leaders this is philosophical more so than any kind of fact. I actually think it's more refreshing to learn, and be with leaders who stand inside of something very unique and advocate for something that is unique and interesting and different rather than repurposed versions of things that have already existed. And as a visionary, isn't that also what we're here to do is to create a future that didn't exist, that imagine things that aren't already here that are so different. And so that messaging felt, I don't know, contrived. I didn't love it. But it is what it is. And it was funny.
One of the other things that I loved about how the Barbies helped each other move out of where they went to - which is abdicating themselves completely in Ken-land, to reestablishing their voice and finding who they were again - is that the women who saw what was happening, went all in on helping the women who didn't. That it wasn't them waiting for the men to solve it, that they decided they would find the solution and they supported one another to make it happen. Because one of the truths of the patriarchy that we know, and I don't use that word a lot, I know, you know that. I understand it as a framework and a system, which is why, this is how I'm referencing it here.
But one of the things that we know is how it has perpetuated the competition of women with each other, with the ultimate goal of the attention of men. Now, that may not be what it feels like today in your world, but there's a lot of that within women's relationships. This judgment, this need to feel in some way more attractive, more desirable, more interesting, so that you're more likely to be the one that gets chosen.
And so the competition amongst women is, as much as I see all the stuff about supporting one another, I think we still have a really long way to go. And the only way we know how to answer that is in our own hearts. Because if you harbor jealousy, envy, anything like that about other women, it's not your fault. But you are a part of a system that has perpetuated that. And so what I loved about this movie is it showed the purity of what happens when women work together to support one another.
One of the other lessons was that Barbie started to have awareness and like emotions of a human, and she didn't like it. She didn't like feeling sad or uncomfortable or shame or humiliated, anxiety, all the things that so many of us feel every day. She didn't like that 'cause in Barbie-land, she never felt that. And there was a scene where she just was like, "No, I don't want this. I don't wanna feel uncomfortable. I don't wanna do this part. I don't want it." and the lesson was, it's not something we avoid. We can't hide. I mean, you can, but it doesn't do you any good.
And so if you're already a leader, which in this case, this Barbie was the leader of this cause, this movement, her decision to just avoid it because she felt discomfort would have grave impact. And I believe that's true for every single one of you listening to this. There are elements of what you do in the world that you are avoiding 'cause you feel uncomfortable. And that lack of action, wherever it is that you're avoiding something because it's uncomfortable for you, it's having an impact on the team, on your life, on your relationships. What is it? Right?
I referenced this in my previous podcast on Hannahs conversations, and I embellished it even more in the Moxie Sage, which is, the level of commitment we expect from people to work for us, the level of intimacy we have with people in our personal relationships, and yet, the inability that the majority of us have to move through difficult moments is profound. How would your life be different if you knew you could really move through any moment? Not that you want to, but that you could, and you could make it work, and you could do it better, and with more ease and with more confidence than you ever had before.
We can't avoid the problems. There's a very popular passage right now, scene that America Ferrera does about the difficulties of being a woman. And it's very good. I think it's really resonated for a lot of people, it certainly did me. I shared it on my story, but it's also rooted in the collective misinterpretations about who we're supposed to be, that we all share. So it's not even that we can blame that on men or the system. We can look at one another and say, what kind of judgments do we hold against each other for our mothering, for our clothing, for our behavior, for the choices that we make? What is it that we do that separates us from one another?
We perpetuate the stereotypes that we resent. It's just, it's so baked in. I know that for myself, my daughter just left today to go to college. She's reported today. This morning was rough. And I was honestly happy when high school was over, not because my kids are leaving - I will miss them - but because I'm so happy to be out of that environment as a parent, as a woman. The judgment of, "Oh, you're not gonna be at the game? Where are you gonna be?"
"Oh, I have a retreat I'm leading."
"Oh, must be nice."
"Oh, you don't make your kids' lunch?"
"No, I don't make my kids' lunch."
"Oh, do you sit down with your kids and do their homework?"
"No, I don't do that."
So like, we have a collective problem as women. And if you're in a leadership role, I always come back to like, our work is our work first. What are the thoughts we have about other people, other women, employees that work for you, that are women? They should have kids. They shouldn't have kids. They should take time off. They shouldn't take time off. They should dress this way. They shouldn't dress this way. They should talk this way. They shouldn't talk this way. What are we already bringing to the table?
I thought that was a really powerful lesson. Though there's so many of us struggling and we sit on either side of the coin. Thin people versus heavy people, both struggling. Rich people versus poor people, both struggling. Successful in entrepreneurs versus successful business intrepreneurs, both struggling. Mothers, non-mothers, both struggling. Because we feel the judgment weighed off each side. Why do we do that to each other? Stop it. It would be so great if we just loved one another for showing up. Good job, mama. You woke up today, you got dressed. I'm proud of you, man. Some days nobody wants to.
And the last lesson that I loved was after Barbie, the Barbies were able to re-indoctrinate the women and they woke up, and they saw what the patriarchy was doing and they figured it all out. They were like, whoa. And then everybody kind of got back into their rightful place. It wasn't that, it was just the Barbies, and the Kens were just Ken, that the Barbies didn't own everything, and the Kens didn't have a place. Like, the Kens didn't even have a house, right? Because there's no such thing as Ken's house. It was just Barbie's house. Barbie's Dream house.
No. What happened at the end of the movie was balance. Everybody had a place. Everybody gets to be who they are. And there was a balance with what the houses look like. There was a little bit of Barbie and a little bit of Ken. The car, a little bit of Barbie, a little bit of Ken. And that I thought was a beautiful message. Because I think a lot of people hear feminism, patriarchy, toxic masculinity, degradation of women. They hear all these terms and they think that what the goal is, is to crush the men, eliminate men as leaders in society and replace them all with women. And that's just not true.
The goal would be no more extremes. Balance, balance, balance in the home, balance in the work, balance in the wealth, balance in decision making. But I'm gonna tell you, I'm 53 years old. I spend time with other people, and there are lots of women who still play a role in a relationship that diminishes their power. And some do that because it's more comfortable. And some do that because they are in fear. They're in fear of being alone. They're in fear of being hurt, they're in fear of being broke.
So if there's still one woman on this planet who cannot be who she is because she is smothered by masculine energy, or literally by men in her life, then we're not there yet. So this isn't about all the positions of power and all the leaders on the planet being women. This is about let's just balance the scales.
And so the Barbie movie did a beautiful job at painting the obscene ridiculousness of both sides of Barbie being in charge of everything, and Barbie being the answer, and the patriarchy being in charge of everything and the patriarchy being the answer, right? It was the balance that ultimately was, the message was, can't we all get to be who we are? Can't we all feel proud of who we are? Can't we all find a way to have our dream house or our dream job, or our dream career or our whatever. Our baby, our no baby. Why can't we all thrive?
So we do have a long way to go, and I know you know that, but I think for every woman who tunes in and listens to herself and trust herself and get stronger as herself, and learns how to lead herself and others in a way that feels beautiful and graceful and gives you the confidence and strength to be you, not a female version of you acting like a dude, but just to be you. The modeling of that is so powerful and it's, I think, what the world needs.
We don't need to eradicate men and the patriarchy. The patriarchy will disassemble and hopefully we can see that we all get to win. But the threatening this of, I mean, watching people lose their minds over this movie, you guys, has been so silly. It doesn't make sense to me. It's a movie. But it makes some good points, and it made a few not great ones. It was entertainment, ripped from the headlines. So I hope you tuned into this one. Hope you weren't too triggered.
There's some really great scenes in this Barbie movie. The best scene for me is when she takes off her shoes, her high heeled shoes, and her toes, she still stands on her toes because, do you remember your Barbie just was always permanently in high heels? There's a whole really funny scene about that, but I won't ruin it for you if you haven't seen it. So I recommend the movie. I think it's got some great lessons, and there was one line at the very end that completely turned me into a sobbing mess, as well as the Billie Eilish theme song, which is absolutely beautiful, but gut wrenching.
But Ruth Handler, played by Rhea Perlman, who is the founder, or creator, of Barbie. She makes a comment about, she says that mothers stand still, so their daughters can see how far they've come. And I see that as a collective. Not everybody births daughters, but we are all raising them. And I've come so much farther than was ever possible for my mother, and I know the same will be true for my daughter, and I believe it's important that we continue to harness the beautifulness of our femininity and our capabilities as a result.
And so I'm grateful and honored that you tune into this podcast because this is the message of this work, is how beautiful we all are and how capable we are all are, and how much more we can do for ourselves and for others. So thank you for listening. I'll see you next time.
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