“They made Barbie a man-hating Woke propaganda fest,” commented some man on Twitter.
To sum it up, Barbie was a great film.
Since it was released three months ago, we have seen how much Barbie was (and still is) quite controversial. So controversial that it created many more debates than a film about a weapon of mass destruction that killed thousands of people. Of course, debating around an allegedly woke anti-man propaganda serving the dangerous feminist scheme of women empowerment is more crucial.
Yes, Barbie may have presented a simple representation of feminism, not delving into all its complexities, but this does not mean it was not powerful. On social media, we have seen stories about women rethinking their relationship with their boyfriends and even breaking up with them. They found resonance in America Ferrera’s monologue about all the contradictory rules that society has imposed on women: “I’m just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us. […] And it turns out in fact that not only are you doing everything wrong, but also everything is your fault.”
Nowadays, it is expected of women to work to earn their own money (which is wonderful, because it guarantees women financial independence) while still carrying the burden of being the primary caregiver. The problem is that in the process of accepting women in the workplace, society has not tried to redistribute the mental load that comes with taking care of the house and that women have to deal with. According to a 2023 Pew Research Center study, in a same-income marriage, wives tend to spend 4.5 hours more per week on housework and caregiving than their husbands who can enjoy 3.5 hours more per week on leisure activities.
However, the majority of those men are not willing to change this situation which is rather comfortable for them. Men don’t do the housework, they help. They don’t parent, they babysit. They even use weaponized incompetence, that is to say, feigning inability to do certain household chores to avoid them. They completely lack empathy for the burden their partner has to carry, only selfishly caring about their personal well-being and doing as little as possible. Women are just considered as convenient maids doing unpaid labour.
This kind of technique is especially used by a specific kind of man: the man-child. They often see their partner as a second mother to do all their chores in their very own mojo dojo casa house and they usually have toxic emotional responses — they are unreliable, always make excuses, and invalidate the emotional concerns of their partner.
This behaviour is rooted in deep misogyny and keeps spreading through social media, mainly in the youngest generation. Figures like Andrew Tate have risen as true inspirations for young men despite being charged with human trafficking and rape.
For some men, seeing women taking positions of power becomes a source of insecurity and thus, they turn toward the ideal of the Alpha Male dominating women while being “successful” through sham hustles like Shopify courses, crypto schemes, and other pyramid schemes promising them millions, but leaving them penniless and still girlfriendless. The character of the Alpha Male is a way for them to content with the upheaval of gender roles in the past decades. While women have fought to be considered as more than fragile, caregiving creatures, many men are not able to keep up with this change and are still stuck in the breadwinner mentality, thinking that all women are dangerous and vicious gold diggers.
Ryan Gosling’s Ken triggered this toxic masculinity ideal: he danced, he cried, and his job was just beach. He was its antithesis. He was not powerful at all and was absolutely dedicated to Barbie until he realised that he was Kenough. However, in the end of the film, the Kens still stay less powerful than the Barbies: they can’t sit in Barbieland’s Supreme Court. They continue to be merely supportive figures.
It could be seen as unrealistic, however there is still hope, since men who do not feel threatened by their partner’s ambitions and successes exist. A great example as of late is Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift (the literal Ken and Barbie). Let’s be honest, who outside of the United States knew who Travis Kelce was before he started dating Taylor Swift? Despite grown men crying about it, Taylor Swift did put Travis Kelce on the map. She is the famous one in the couple and it does not seem to bother the athlete. Kelce was a victim of the “Swiftie effect” as he gained more than 350,000 followers on Instagram, and his jersey sales increased by 400 percent.
Let’s hope that we are entering a new era, one in which women will not have to put their career and ambitions aside in order to avoid outshining their partner. Women should not be the only ones to make big sacrifices. It is time for men to understand that having an equally or more successful partner is not bruising their egos. She can be everything and he is Kenough.