Barbie: Why I Took My Kids to See It and How We Talked All Things Patriarchy


barbieAgainst the recommendations of many local Facebook mommy groups, I took my seven-year-old son and five-year-old daughter to see the Barbie movie. I searched high and low but couldn’t find anyone saying it was a great idea, but I found a lot of opinions shaming parents for making the choice to do so. In fact, when I walked into the theatre with my two kids, there were quite a few looks being thrown our way. Now I did a little research before we went but couldn’t find anything that felt like reason enough not to go, other than it would be over their head and they wouldn’t get the concepts. Both kids said they loved it, but if I’m being honest, I think my five-year-old daughter was a little bored at times and truly didn’t understand a lot of it (she was there for the fashion). My seven-year-old son, however, did follow the plot, asked a lot of good questions, and engaged in a great follow-up discussion after the movie. If you decide to take your kids, be prepared to describe the patriarchy to them, and here are some tips for guiding that conversation.

Define patriarchy

Patriarchy is a system or society that favors men. It thrives on men having more power and women having less power. Depending on your kid, you can talk about the history of women’s rights and how we have made so much progress, but things still aren’t fully better yet. Barbie does an excellent job at addressing this concept!

Start with equality

First off, be explicitly clear, this is not anti-man or man-hating. This is about equal opportunities for boys and girls. This is about standing up and speaking out against any system that keeps girls and women down or doesn’t allow them to rise up. The Barbie movie offered a perfect platform for talking about the way some people want to view the world and the way the world actually is.

Be prepared to share examples or stories

Kids learn through having stories or examples that apply to these concepts. You can share a hypothetical scenario, a fairy tale, or a real-life example they can latch onto. In my particular scenario, I talked about the fact that women are underrepresented in positions of power within corporations and within politics. We talked about how we’ve never had a female president and how sometimes women who run for these positions are criticized for things their male counterparts wouldn’t be criticized for (not smiling enough or speaking passionately and being told they are too emotional). This happens frequently in the Barbie movie, so there are a lot of rich examples there as well.

Answer questions as they come

Kids ask questions, and you won’t always have a perfect answer. Do your best to answer honestly and age appropriately. If you don’t know how to answer it, tell them it’s such a good question, and you need to think on it a little bit, and you’ll get back to them. Sometimes giving space to reflect on your own discomfort or to search for the right words does wonders! Also, kids understand way more than we give them credit for, so don’t shy away from tough conversations.

Talk about role models

Who are those that do a good job of fighting patriarchy? Who can your kids look up to? In our home, we talk about strong women we know and those that are famous as well. My mother-in-law was a VP at a Fortune 500 company, while my father-in-law was a stay-at-home dad. They faced a lot of criticism for bucking against gender roles, and my mother-in-law has many stories of being discriminated against at work. She became a great advocate for many women within her company. I also shared a few politicians I look up to and admire. I talked about why I liked their ideas and what I knew about how hard they’ve worked to change things for the better.

In the end, I can’t tell you it is a good idea for you to take your kids to Barbie. All I can say is that it offered some great talking points for our family. I’m a firm believer that concepts need to be talked about over and over, not just once. So this could be a great addition to regular conversations about gender, systems, and equality.

Did you or would you take your kids to see Barbie?