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the only thing no one's said about 'Barbie'
(this one might be worth the audio)
I know, I know. If one more person writes a commentary on the Barbie movie you are going to gouge your eyes out. I know this, friend. I am this.
But here I am writing one anyway because I have yet to read one godforsaken critique about the line that dampened (not ruined, because I still liked it, but yes dampened) the entire film for me.
At the very end, when Barbie feels — really, truly feels — what it is to be human under the gentle tutelage of her creator, Ruth Handler, the audience is feeling a little verklempt. After all, this scene is moving; full of tenderness, full of universality. After 90 minutes of feminism we are all taking a moment to reflect on the power of plain and simple humanism. And then the elderly Handler reveals she named the doll after her own daughter, Barbara, and softly — sweetly — says this:
“We mothers stand still so that our daughters can look back and see how far they’ve come.”
In the words of the brilliant philosophical treatise that is The Good Place: holy forking shirtballs.
That is some massive grade-A garbage right there. That is the brown avocado under my fingernails. That is a sizzling, steaming, fresh pile of poop. I dissent.
Are there no other measuring rods for our daughters?
This is our work, mothers? To stand still? To stop?
Stop what? Stop moving, growing, expanding, exploding? Stop taking risks and stop having ambitions and stop enjoying our bodies and stop raising our voice and stop evolving completely? This is how our daughters will find themselves, know themselves, be proud of themselves? If we give them only something to surpass?
That isn’t motherhood, it is martyrdom; and we are fools if we think it will not bleed our daughters to watch us die.
We do not mother our daughters by standing still; we mother by refusing to. We mother when we refuse to live the narrative that a woman’s life effectively ends when her children are grown — or born. We mother when we refuse to stop dancing, refuse to stop dreaming, refuse to stop changing, refuse to stop fucking, refuse to stop learning, refuse to stop challenging, refuse to stop healing. When we refuse to stop, refuse to stop, refuse to stop.
I will not teach my daughter that, at a certain age, a woman stands still. Because that is the last thing I want for her. That is the last thing she would want for me. That is the last thing I want for myself. And there is a Divine Mother, whom I know with every instinct in my cells, who tells me that is the last thing She wants for me too. Because She has shown me that to mother is to act: to act on behalf of my child, yes, but also to act on behalf of myself, knowing that this too is for my child. That this too is for the world.
A woman who stands still is a woman who has given up, and we will not.
Around the web
On Sept. 26 I will be doing a live virtual event for FutureChurch to present my book, Feminist Prayers for My Daughter. FutureChurch is a fantastic organization that seeks changes that will provide all Roman Catholics the opportunity to participate fully in Church life, ministry, and governance. I respect their work so much and it is a real honor to be invited. All are welcome - you don’t have to be Catholic to attend.
Over on Instagram, the above post has struck a chord with a lot of people. It’s always fun to share the concept of ecofeminist theology with new folks, because so many of us intuit the truth of it with no guides to lean on. (Click the photo square to head over for the caption.)
If you enjoyed today’s post and haven’t yet read my book Rewilding Motherhood, I really hope you do. (And not for the sake of sales. Keep your $$ and get it at your library if ya wanna.) There is a woeful lack of literature about motherhood that does justice to the complex experience of it, and while I won’t pretend that mine is the pinnacle, it does at least address and wrestle with some of the modern tensions.
Alright y’all, that’s it from me today. I hope you have a great weekend!