Have you watched the movie “Barbie”?
To be honest, I felt indifferent about going to see it. However, I went because some of the people whose opinions I hold in high regard insisted that it was worthwhile – and they were absolutely right.
Having grown up during the era of Barbie, I was elated by how the movie turned the tables on many of the sexist messages and stereotypes associated with Barbie during my youth. I applaud the courage of the producers, writers, and actors who brought this movie to life. It provoked me in a positive way.
I don’t claim to have grasped all the subtle innuendos or messages conveyed in the movie. In fact, I feel like I need to watch it again to catch what I might have missed.
Nevertheless, here are a few initial takeaways that resonated with me:
Patriarchy is at play in societies worldwide, even if us men don’t readily see it. I feel defensive when someone accuses me of being part of the patriarchy. I put in conscious effort to overcome my own sense of entitlement and the privileges I enjoy in society. I like to believe that this effort exempts me from contributing to the patriarchy. However, the truth is that the system is skewed, and men, whether consciously or unconsciously, reap the benefits of this imbalance.
The role of men in our evolving society is changing, and our partnerships with women and others must evolve as well. In the movie, Ken faces an identity crisis when Barbie realizes that the real world isn’t as kind to her as the make-believe Barbie-land. In Barbie’s fantasy world, Ken derives his self-worth solely from Barbie’s attention. However, in reality, Ken needs to listen to and empathize with Barbie’s complex emotions and reactions. Barbie instructs Ken to find his own identity apart from her. As Ken witnesses Barbie confront and articulate these challenges, he responds with withdrawal and oversimplification, saying, “I just want to ride my horse.” This scene reminds me of the times I asked my female colleagues to “just tell me what to do” instead of figuring things out on my own.
Our duty as men is to confront our insecurities and consciously transcend them – to recognize that we are already sufficient just as we are. Toward the end of the movie, as Ken discovers his true identity and recognizes that he is more than merely an accessory to Barbie, we see him wearing a hoodie that reads “I am Kenough.” This signifies his growth and maturity. Fortunately, in my professional and personal life, I am encountering more men who are open to discussing their vulnerabilities and feelings of inadequacy.
Whether the lessons I gleaned from Barbie were intentional or inadvertent, I’m simply grateful for how the movie spurred me to introspect and to refine my beliefs and actions.
So, I ask you: Are you “Kenough”?