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Does Barbie say something important about women's health?

Does the movie do more than redefine the doll?

Margot Robbie has been visible all over the world in the last couple of months, promoting the psychedelic smorgasbord that is the Barbie movie. Widely recognised as more than a film for kids, it's at once feel good, entertaining, uplifting and pretty acerbic in its commentary on gender and equality.

Barbie's commentary on women's health

The movie doesn't so much offer answers as raise questions, which is probably a fair position to take. It notes that while the 50 year old Barbie herself might have conquered the world, going from a swimsuit wearing fashion model to a doctor, journalist, astronaut - is it also ok for women to just be... well, normal?

One question that is palpably left hanging at the end of the movie is one on women's health. CNN writes:

"After all of Barbie’s glories and misadventures on the path to becoming human, moviegoers leave her at a pivotal moment at the close of the new film. That moment isn’t starting an extraordinary astronaut job or winning a Nobel Prize or even realising authentic human beauty: It’s a gynaecologist appointment."

The article, reasonably then asks:

"Why is something as ordinary as a doctor’s appointment important enough for the final scene of the film? What makes this regular inconvenience a unifying entry into womanhood?"

Their Medical Analyst, Dr. Leana Wen, argues that seeing Barbie go to the gynaecologist normalises the experience and makes the case for reproductive health (whether or not a women is in childbearing years) being a fundamental part of all healthcare.

She says: "I hope that will be one of the main takeaways from the scene, which is that every girl, every woman, every person who has female reproductive organs should seek regular preventive care to address their reproductive health."

Is it ok to just be 'normal'?

Healthcare isn't the only aspect of women's experiences that the film comments on (indeed, Ken makes some interesting points about the male experience too). However, perhaps one of the most powerful moments is America Ferrera monologue, which begins:

"It is literally impossible to be a woman. You are so beautiful, and so smart, and it kills me that you don't think you're good enough. Like, we have to always be extraordinary, but somehow we're always doing it wrong."

Cosmopolitan reported that the scene took 30 takes and "Greta [Gerwig] says everyone on set cried when they listened to it."

It's an interesting space for this doll to have entered, giving a narrative that the makers at Mattel have perhaps felt has gone unnoticed over time - that Barbie is perhaps trying to stand up for women in a modern world? One thing's for sure, whether you like the movie or don't, whether you agree or disagree with its points, this is a doll that's aiming to prove that she not just a girl in a Barbie world, but one with opinions relevant to the real world as well.

Read about the gender health gap

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