Life Lessons For Grown Women From The Barbie Movie

Emma Hodgson   |   22-08-2023

Natasha Hatherall-Shawe, the CEO of TishTash Communications, offers her the lessons that all women can learn from the new Barbie movie.

Whether you’ve seen the new Barbie movie or not, there is no doubt you will have ‘seen’ enough to know that it’s not really a kids’ movie by any means. With all the ‘Kenergy’ memes and more, you might be left wondering if it’s any more than a pink puff piece for pure entertainment. Director Greta Gerwig has intentionally created her own feminist manifesto, and whilst it may feel like a patriarchal parody, and certainly very pink, there are some definite points to be made that even we, as grown women can learn from our plastic friend.

Beware of toxic positivity

You’ll note that Barbie has a fleeting moment at the Dreamhouse disco. During her ‘best day ever’ her true feelings and thoughts begin to speak to her. Reality invading a world where everyone has to be happy all the time – sound familiar? Do you always have to have a smile on your face in ‘Real Life Land’? Well, no – toxic positivity is a thing, and whilst a positive outlook on life will never cause harm, it is also wholly unrealistic. Your emotions and challenges are valid – denial doesn’t make anyone feel better. – shutting out true feelings may even make us feel worse. It’s your life – warts and all, and all of your feelings are valid, even the less Instagram-worthy ones. Even Barbie leaves ‘Dreamland’.

Don’t be defined by a man.

Barbie might have Ken, but if you are yet to find your own Prince Charming  – that’s totally okay. Even if the ‘fairytale’ didn’t work out for you, just being ‘you’ is completely enough. Whatever society dictates, validation from the menfolk is not necessary for a fulfilled, modern life, on your own terms. In the movie – the stereotype is famously flipped, Ken needs his Barbie, but he soon discovers that he needs to truly find himself first.

Hatherall-Shawe says there are many key lessons in the film.

Career diversity is always available.

There is nobody quite like Barbie to show us that we can be it all, if that’s what we want. Previous generations might have stuck to a well-worn or expected career path with either no desire to change or a fear of the unknown or giving up stability, but you don’t have to! Easy to say when we rely on a steady income, but if you want to get out of your own rat race and try something different, the options are always there, from Pilot to Palaeontologist – nothing is impossible. Dream it, plan it, do it.

Always ask for help

We all need our own ‘Weird Barbie’ to lean on for advice or a friendly ear. Grown adults with busy lives – that’s all of us, right? When we feel we need the support of others, we often think that they too are living the same hustle and that we shouldn’t bother them. We pre-empt the feeling of rejection or past experiences when we want to reach out for help, then don’t. Opening up to others is hard, and even if others don’t quite know what to say or don’t respond immediately, it shouldn’t put us off. We are always stronger together.

Yes, the Patriarchy is real.

Barbie might be shocked with what she finds in the real world and we might be living in Dreamland ourselves if we think the strides we have made towards gender parity are enough. The movie shows us through fresh eyes the level of misogyny and what women go through every day at work and in their personal lives. It’s out there, and we must keep fighting the good fight, empowering and educating ourselves, our friends, our daughters and those who come after us as much as we can.

Own the space

When Barbie received her Nobel Peace Prize (yes, really), thanked everyone and then stated, “I work hard so I deserve it.” It really hit home. In the movie – women neither compete with each other OR apologise for their success. Usually, the only person holding you back from celebrating yourself or ‘owning your space’ is YOU. No apologies – stand proud. 

Perfection does not exist.

Perception versus reality means that we often strive for the sometimes unattainable. Perfection, by its very definition, is unattainable. So, if perfection does not exist, it’s time to be comfortable with what we have and our best endeavours. The Barbieland ‘perfection’ wasn’t enough for Barbie – it was exhausting and she craved the real world. Should we just feel lucky that we already live in it? Perfectionism will always set us up for failure because we will never achieve it.

Words: Natasha Hatherall-Shawe

Images: Supplied