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The world is not all hot pink

Daydream By Diana G. Mendoza

Manila—As I’ve been into movies lately and since we’re still reeling from Hollywood’s oldest award-giving body and the last to give out recognition for artistic and technical excellence in films, I wanted to put in my two pennies worth on “Barbie.”


No, it’s not about the Oscars’ snub in the nominations for lead actress Margot Robbie and producer Greta Gerwig; it’s about the movie’s presentation of the world of women and girls in a commercial, profit-making environment and, in some countries, where patriarchy and male privilege continue to crack down on activism that seeks freedom for women and girls.

Probably due to the frequency of my immersion with discourses on feminism, I watched the film with my eyes rolling and eyebrows raising in many scenes. I was delighted a few times with the visual, pink-hued feast of Barbie’s dreamworld where “girls can do anything” and be anyone they wish.

The flick with Barbie and her boyfriend Ken as dolls-come-to-life offered a battle cry of understanding the life and purpose of being female and male. In the case of Barbie, it’s more of experiencing the human world where women and girls can think about death, or where women can be flatfooted and have cellulite.

I never had a Barbie doll growing up. I never liked dolls anyway. I found them creepy just looking at their eyes and thick eyelashes. As a girl, I climbed trees, swam the whole day in rivers and the sea, played with stones and pebbles and made them ammunition for my weapon – the slingshot. I played with dogs, cats, birds, goats, chickens and cows.

My play world may have been marvelous, but early on I formed questions when some male adults I knew  – upon seeing me and my sister – told my dad that he was fortunate to have daughters for "debt payment." This expression by older generations recalls the colonial times in the Philippines when poor farmers traded off their daughters so that landowners would not force them out of the land they were tilling.

The world has since changed, and we are in this era where the Philippines is deemed the most gender-equal country in Asia, according to those who study equality and parity. We are also at a point in history where, in many societies, girls and women can be as powerful as boys and men.

All these changes notwithstanding, “Barbie” did not offer answers if more things will change because the world of girls and women is still filled with body issues and struggles. This is pointed out in America Ferrera’s monologue – playing the mom – about the puzzling circumstances of being a woman and the inconsistent standards to which society holds her. 

“It’s literally impossible to be a woman,” she said, as she ranted about women being faulted at everything they do. “I’m just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us. And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing women, then I don’t even know.”

I know. Women can aspire for some things to get better. But the human world is not all pink, soft and wonderful. It is something we confront and find ways to make it livable. And we don’t need a movie to tell us that.

Diana G. Mendoza is a journalist based in Manila. Send feedback to


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