Barbie, the Patriarchy and Activism


As a recovering Barbie-despiser, I did not think that I would like the movie so much when I initially went to see it in a cinema in Islamad (of all places). We were happy in a sea of pink and I was encouraged that the message of the movie seemed to resonate in this part of the world where traditionally you would expect “suppressed women” more than in a country like Switzerland. Over the last six months due to an education project in my transactional analysis course, I saw the movie about five times (the last time with a commentary by Greta Gerwig) and I am disappointed at the neglect of the team at the Oscars. I think Margot Robbie deserves an Oscar for her performance and creative vision. What is more important though, is that I have been thinking a lot about patriarchy and how we can work through the systemic issues we are confronted with as expats, founders, and career women.

The Barbie movie explores the theme of patriarchy in Barbieland. When Ken attempts to introduce masculinity, women use their intelligence to maintain dominance, reflecting a struggle against patriarchal forces. In the real world, Barbie separates from Ken, embarking on a journey to connect with a girl playing with her, challenging traditional gender roles. The role reversal and the sad truth about the all-male management at Mattel reflect so many of today’s organizations that I had to explore the theme of systemic and benevolent sexism further.

The more often you watch the movie the more you see and understand subtle details and while the monologue of Gloria (played by America Ferrera) still brings tears to my eyes I loved the movie for the artwork in set design, costumes, music, and dance. I also found the comical yet serious relationship between Barbie and Ken deeper than originally expected. When we analyzed those two characters for our project in TA we saw even more depth in those two characters. 

I now have a Barbie doll sitting on my desk. She reminds me of all that is not ideal in my life (such as my clothes size) and my shoulder-length hair (that is a lot thinner than 25 years ago). Barbie also reminds me of the power we have and that we can step out of the shadows and do our life’s work unafraid and without self-criticism and self-limiting beliefs. We might need support, we might need coaching and yes, we also still need to work further on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in our societies and our organizations. Giving up our power to patriarchy is not an option. Younger generations need role models, they need to see us on stage, they need to see us in construction sites, on computers developing apps and programming machines, they need to see us in research and on panels. We can voice our concerns, we can address micro-aggressions, we can point out “mansplaining” and we can build support groups for each other. Let’s move forward.



To help women advance in Switzerland, consider the following strategies:

  • Support Organizations: Engage with organizations like Advance, a leading business association committed to gender equality in Switzerland. They offer programs, workshops, and networking opportunities for women in the workforce. 
  • Promote Best Practices: Explore best practices to advance gender equality in Swiss business. Accessing these cases can provide valuable insights.
  • Encourage Male Involvement: Recognize that advancing women in the workplace must involve men. Emphasize collaboration and inclusivity to address the gender gap in management positions.
  • Empower Through Networking: Support platforms like Women in Digital Switzerland, offering networking, career discussions, and expert-led sessions for women empowerment.

Support Groups

Switzerland-chapter – LEAD Network


FURTHER RESOURCES and References–remove-family-status-from-cvs/46348678


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