Patriarchy According to the Barbie Movie

Jonathan McIntosh at Pop Culture Detective took the works of Greta Gerwig (The Barbie Movie), bell hooks (The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love), and Allan Johnson (The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy) and combined them to produce an excellent, reference-level definition of patriarchy.

This is a potent combination: a voice describing patriarchy, while characters from well-known films show how it harms. For me, though, I feel the high quality writing is not getting all the way to my brain as I am also trying to simultaneously pay attention to the moving pictures. So I found it helpful to transcribe part of the video:

All you have to do is turn on the news or go to the movies and you’ll be inundated with endless stories centering men. Obviously, this doesn’t mean that women are never centered under patriarchy, but when they are, it’s often framed as a woman’s story, rather than a human story. “The Barbie Movie”, for example, is very specifically a story about the gendered experience of being a woman in society. We can contrast that with a movie like Oppenheimer, which is a story about becoming “death, the destroyer of worlds.” Yes, this “destroyer of worlds” happens to be a man, but notice, the story isn’t focused on the gendered experience of being a man in society. In fact, all of Christopher Nolan’s films center very important men, but none are about their gender. They’re billed as stories representative of the human experience writ large. Greta Gerwig’s movies, on the other hand, all center women, and are very explicitly about being a woman trying to navigate a man’s world.

That’s not a criticism of either director, by the way. It’s just a stark illustration of what “male-centered” means. In patriarchy, men are viewed as the default for “human” and therefore, male experiences are framed as an exploration of the human condition, while women’s experiences are, first and foremost, framed as being about women. Incidentally, this deep-seated cultural expectation of male centrality helps explain the waves of backlash against any entertainment that’s made for a general audience, but doesn’t center men, or masculinity.

Male identification is a little more complicated, but it is a critical piece of the patriarchal puzzle. It means that:

Core cultural ideas about what is considered good, desirable, preferable, or normal are culturally associated with how we think about men, manhood, and masculinity.
— Johnson, The Gender Knot

This is why professions that elevate qualities like toughness, competitiveness, strength, control, rationality, and invulnerability, are so highly valued and highly paid in our society. While occupations that revolve around qualities thought of as feminine, like compassion, sharing, and care-giving, tend to be systematically devalued and underfunded.

Those problems with patriarchy above are just some of the reasons I am a feminist. I believe feminism is extremely correct. If you read bell hooks’ Feminism is for Everybody and you disagree, I don’t want to talk to you. I just don’t.


Graceful Grape

Graceful Grape

Essie currently has 108 favorited photos on my phone that are L.O.L.s. This is one. In Palm Springs. In a fountain. Graceful Grape looks so happy!

Yucca brevifolia

Yucca brevifolia

At Joshua Tree National Park!

Sunset in Yucca Valley

Sunset in Yucca Valley

Minnie Ears on Disney Carousel

Minnie Ears on Disney Carousel

New Hats

New Hats

Mykala found the HER-EST hat in an amazing throwback denim, and Essie’s ears had scent added to smell like macaron.

Tiana’s Palace

Tiana’s Palace



La Brea

La Brea

SS United States

Matthew Christopher, on visiting and photographing The SS United States: Philadelphia’s Abandoned Ocean Liner:

As I looked out of the [SS United States] over the strip malls and parking lots that sprawled out before the ship’s bow, it struck me that maybe as a culture we are losing the capability to incorporate things of such remarkable grandeur into the fabric of our lives. We see something magnificent and instead of feeling that transcendent awe and humility, maybe we view it as a threat to the worth of the generally shabby architectural constructs we pepper our cities with today. Rather than a cause for celebration, things of beauty are merely to be gleefully demolished or to be hacked apart for the base elements they are made of. The real failure is in our own inability to save something like the SS United States, not in its inability to integrate itself into our world. We may now have massive cruise ships serving as seaborne vacation metropolises, but it would be hard to argue that they approach the class or elegance of the passenger liners that preceded them. Maybe as a symbol of who we are, we just don’t deserve the SS United States any more. Maybe we never did. I leave that judgment to you.