The Glorious Reason It Doesn’t Matter That I’m A Proud Raging Feminist Who Hasn’t Seen Barbie Yet

So I should've watched it. At least for the sake of women's solidarity, I should have watched it by now. If feminists like me did not support Barbie, who else will?

Ryan Gosling’s ‘Barbie’ wins the global box office race. Nolan’s Oppenheimer comes second!

So read a headline on a blog post last week.

Once the intense rage of the misogyny of the headline that called a female-fronted movie about the Western world’s most definitive female doll directed by the indie world’s most respected female director went away – I decided to take the high road and pacified myself with the thought that it was perhaps some asshole dude (probably a Russian troll) trying to get a rise out women. I decided that I wouldn’t allow myself to give him the satisfaction of getting a rise out of me.

I also remembered my many male friends IRL and the many male friends and acquaintances on my social media platforms and realized that for the very first time, I’m in an enviable position of having many men in my life who are as feminist as I am. Look…none of them say and do the right thing 100% of the time. Sure, they have flaws. But it’s those flaws that make our friendship that much more vibrant and interesting. But they are all making an effort to genuinely be allies to women. And that’s enough for me.

So once I calmed down about the troll’s headline I sat back and gave a thought to the Barbie phenomenon.

The thing is…I should’ve seen it by now

First of all, I am a BIG MOVIE BUFF. I am also a proud and loud and obnoxious feminist who tells everyone that I am a proud card-carrying member of the feminist movement. I knew that Barbie was supposed to be a feminist tale. Not to mention – I love Greta Gerwig. I love Margot Robbie. I love America Ferrera. I worship Issa Rae (if you haven’t watched her series Insecure – you have NO idea what you’re missing). I adore Ryan Gosling. So I should’ve watched it. At least for the sake of women’s solidarity, I should have watched it by now. But a strange sense of apathy has taken over me over the past few months and I haven’t felt like watching the movie as yet.

And over the past ten-plus days since the movie came out, I have agonized over how I let my sisterhood down.

I raged How could I do this to my own community?

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It’s no secret that the world is full of those who are only too willing and ready to turn against women. Anytime a woman-directed and woman-fronted film comes out – there are those many who snigger, demean the film by calling it a ‘chick flick’ or a silly rom-com, and make snarky comments about how these ‘women flicks’ are too girly and sensitive and overwrought and emotional. And if the film has the audacity to become successful – like the troll above – they are only too happy to give all the credit to the men who are part of the film.

I knew all this. I also knew that every time a female actor raises her voice for equal pay with her male counterpart – they are told that once women-fronted films make the same kind of money at the box office, they will start getting paid the same as the male actors. The underlying snark there was that women simply did not go to the movie theaters as men do. This is why I knew how imperative it was that I should support the movie by buying a ticket and helping its box office numbers. If feminists like me did not support Barbie, who else will?

But like I said – I’ve been in a weird state of lethargy over the past few months and so I did not go see the movie. FYI – I still haven’t seen it.

So the guilt has weighed very heavily on me over the past ten days.

And the box office numbers decided it for me

And then the second-weekend box office numbers came out last Monday. In case the naysayers dismissed the first weekend collections of Barbie (an astonishing $160 million-plus in the US and over 300-plus million globally) as a fluke, Barbie smashed all box office records by pulling over $700 million (and counting) globally so far. As I write this piece Barbie is marching towards making $1 Billion!

Apart from the sheer thrill of a female-fronted movie making astonishing box office numbers – my biggest takeaway from Barbie’s super success is that – my ticket money while would have helped the overall numbers – wasn’t needed. Read that again. MY TICKET WAS NOT NEEDED to make Barbie a global juggernaut. Turns out that my sisters across the world turned out in massive numbers and made up for a few of us who haven’t watched it yet.

I cannot tell you what a massive sense of pride and relief I feel.

For the past decade and more – it feels like many of us have been fighting a relentless battle against many men AND women about women’s rights and the feminist movement. Many times I’ve felt a sense of fatigue and rage when other women make statements like “I am not a feminist” or “I love men. I believe in being a humanist and not a feminist” and more such garbage. I’ve fought the feminist battle within my own circle of family and friends and acquaintances and it seemed like a never-ending battle. I guess I felt defeated by this seemingly uphill task of trying to explain why both men and women need to fight for women’s rights. And it was this fatigue that probably made me feel defeatist, almost to the point of wondering, what’s even the point of watching Barbie? How will my one ticket help the cause?

But the past ten days have shown me and shown the world that women are ready. Ready to take center stage and ready to support their own. Barbie’s mega-success shows we are slowly getting to the stage where it does not matter if men come out to support us or not. We will come out for one another. Hollywood and increasingly, Bollywood, is not able to dismiss chick flicks with ‘who will watch these movies?’ Turns out – women will.

And with that – I booked my tickets to see Barbie this upcoming weekend!

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About the Author

Roopa Swaminathan - The Messy Optimist

Hi...I'm Roopa. I'm also a messy optimist! I'm an academic-cum-artist. I'm a writer, filmmaker and professor of creative writing. Academically, I've a Double Masters and a Phd read more...

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