Mark Hardie
Lawyer, Military Veteran, and Philosopher

Ani Difranco: Women Are Not Barbie Dolls

Barack Mandela, who served in the IDF and US Army, at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas. (Mr. Mandela’s Personal Collection)

Many years ago, a radical feminist activist loaned me her albums by singer/songwriter Ani Difranco while I was living in Los Angeles. Ani Difranco’s powerful and political lyrics helped transform me from a naïve, sexist simpleton into a serious pro-woman advocate.

Before I was introduced to Ani Difranco’s pro-female artistry, I was a close-minded, sexist heterosexual male who promoted so-called traditional roles for women and girls. I was a crusty, ashy male who lied to himself about women’s rights while limiting the genuine aspirations of women in a male-dominated society.

A few weeks ago, after listening to Ani Difranco’s “Not So Soft” album, I saw the Barbie movie which is inspired by the iconic Barbie doll. My unsophisticated masculine brain was blown away by the Barbie film’s themes of female empowerment and women’s equality. The deeper message of the Barbie film is clear: Women are not Barbie dolls.

The Barbie doll, a globally recognized and iconic toy, has transcended generations to become a symbol of empowerment and feminism. The impact of Barbie extends beyond just being a plastic doll; it has influenced not only children’s play but also discussions surrounding women’s rights and societal perceptions of beauty and identity. The Barbie film adaptation, in particular, has played a significant role in reflecting evolving ideas about feminism and women’s rights.

The goals of female empowerment and female self-determination in the Barbie film slam against the deep fantasy of my male Inner Child for a soft, gentle, pure, self-sacrificing female mother figure who will always love me unconditionally and fulfill all of my childish whims, desires, and fantasies.

In the most profound psychological sense, all women are my mother.

Yet, at the same time, I believe all women should be free to be more than mother figures and submissive caregivers. My right brain wants all women to take care of my needs, but my left brain believes all women must be empowered to shape their own destinies. For these reasons, the Barbie film exploded and shattered my deeply rooted stereotypes about women and girls.

The Barbie doll has evolved from a controversial symbol into a multifaceted representation of female empowerment, feminism, and women’s rights. The transformation of both the doll and the film illustrates a growing awareness of the importance of portraying strong, independent women who challenge stereotypes and traditional gender roles.

While there is still work to be done in terms of promoting body positivity and diversity, Barbie’s journey from a plastic icon to a dynamic symbol of empowerment demonstrates the potential of pop culture to influence societal perceptions and contribute to the ongoing struggle for gender equality.

As we move forward as a world society, it is crucial to continue engaging in penetrating conversations that elevate the positive aspects of the Barbie franchise while also advocating for changes that promote a more inclusive and empowering representation of women and girls.

Inspired by Barbie, I wrote this poem and song titled “I Am a Barbie Doll”:

I am a Barbie doll

And I want it all

My figure is female

And I am equal to any male

I am not just a pretty girl

I am destined to rule the whole world

I am more powerful than Oprah

I am more beautiful than Angelina Jolie

Yes, I am symbol of power and equality

I am a Barbie doll

And I will never fall

Like Hillary Clinton, I will stand tall

I am a Barbie Doll

Like Kamala Harris, I will stand tall

I am a Barbie Doll

Like Taylor Swift, I will stand tall

I am a Barbie Doll

Yes, women’s rights will never fail

We will never be held back by sexist males

I am a Barbie doll

And I am free of fear

Yes, I am woman of the year

I am a Barbie doll

And like Kim Kardashian

I want it all

The End

This is “Part Four” of my series on female empowerment, women’s rights, and feminism inspired by singer/songwriter/activist/poet Ani Difranco. The goal of this series is to empower women and girls.

About the Author
Licensed Attorney. I earned a Doctor of Law at the University of California, College of the Law, San Francisco (Hastings) . I earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Riverside. I was an international student at the University of Costa Rica Faculty of Law and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Faculty of Law. I am a military veteran of the United States Air Force and United States Army. I am a laureate of the National Defense Service Medal from the Pentagon. I am a financial donor to following: Harvard Law, Yale Law, Stanford Law, Berkeley Law, UC Hastings College of the Law, UC Davis Law, Columbine High School, Choate Rosemary Hall, Phillips Exeter Academy, Sidwell Friends School, Viewpoint School, Beverly Hills High School, Eton College in the United Kingdom, Special Olympics, Children's Defense Fund, Obama Foundation, Clinton Foundation, Barbra Streisand Foundation, Princeton University, Florida A&M, Howard University, Spelman College, Morehouse College, and the British Red Cross. I am former special assistant and staff attorney to Governor Pete Wilson of California. I was public affairs assistant to US Senator Barbara Boxer. I am a member of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
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