The great yet troubled philosopher James Joseph Brown once sang, “This is a man’s world.” It is a sentiment so concrete that it borders on banal, so obvious that even the follow-up line—“But it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing/Without a woman or a girl”—in no way diminishes its truth. We live in a world built, owned, and dominated by patriarchy and the beings who subscribe to it.
You just wouldn’t get that from all the whining by men about the Barbie movie.
If you're a man who is threatened by the Barbie movie—if you feel diminished or emasculated or compelled to set a doll on fire—here’s a tip: Step outside. Walk out the door of the theater into the world that men have created. In no time at all, you will be flooded with the self-gratifying machinations of a civilization that affirms and warms you, regardless of any other factor about your being besides your gender. Nearly every space, bit of media, and social interaction will pat you on the back and remind you that everything is okay, it’s just a movie. You’re still on top, buddy.
This is similar to an exercise that I challenge white people with when they feel attacked whenever someone points out racism. If you want to not feel attacked, just step outside. The world is still overwhelmingly yours. It caters to you. Except for some small pockets and the occasional media flare-up, the world isn’t really challenging your maleness. You almost have to seek such offenses out to feel that way. So just do what so many people are already doing: Don't go looking for answers you don’t want. If the world were being overrun with people who actually wanted to dismantle patriarchy, you’d feel it in every corner of your life. But you’re not because the follow-through isn’t there.
Most of the world I encounter is oblivious to the stuff that I talk about. They never engage the concepts, or if they did, they didn't understand them (or care to) enough to be conversant. And yet they manage to go through their lives effectively, certainly with more efficiency than I do my own. They only contend with the things they must contend with, the things that hit their radar against their will, like DEI training at work. Half of the people you meet have very little interiority. They're not pondering the big questions of life; they’re just living. If they’re not white, they’re probably surviving, which, if you haven’t heard, is some next-level living.
Seeing men, especially white men, complain about what Barbie is doing to people shows a boss-level lack of self-awareness.
Feeling put down by all of the girl power you’re experiencing because of Barbie? All you have to do is look at all of the people who still support Donald Trump at this moment. Earlier this week, 41 counts of criminal activity were lodged against him and his cohorts. He still remains a viable contender for the highest office in the land. This after four years of knowing exactly what kind of damage he’s capable of. That’s only possible because so many Americans don't care about the things that I care about. I don’t mean things like when Grand Theft Auto 6 is going to drop. I mean big things, like white supremacy and gentrification and a functioning democratic process.
Calling Barbie a movie about a doll is reductive. Yes, that's what the movie is, but that's not all the movie is. Any suggestion that the movie doesn't have an agenda is just trying to lose an argument. The part that’s up for debate is whether or not its agenda has the ability to change anything about your patriarchal life. Turns out, it’s only as harmful as the degree to which it decenters men. And frankly, things could be worse for you guys. You could be Keke Palmer’s boyfriend, watching her make music videos with Usher after the world clowned you for being petty.
The thing about an agenda is that if no one actually puts it into effect, it almost doesn't matter what’s on the page. It's just a menu of demands, an idea, a goal. Patriarchy, like white supremacy, is concretely real. It is a system that is working in full effect. It confers great benefits and privileges to men. You can touch patriarchy. You don't ever have to wonder if it's working because it’s never off the clock. You never have to wonder if it's present because in some way it is always present. It is present and functioning even when the people it benefits are not in the room.
Did a woman opt not to do something today because it was easier for her to make it through her shift without the grief of some dude mansplaining her job to her? That’s patriarchy working her in the interest of some dude’s comfort. He wasn’t even in the break room and she still found it easier to just wash the sink full of coffee mugs than send another group email.
Seeing men, especially white men, complain about what Barbie is doing to people shows a boss-level lack of self-awareness. For a group of people who rule the world, you are perhaps the biggest cry babies this society has ever produced. I would tell you that you should be ashamed of yourselves but you're wholly incapable of the feeling. The lack of shame that you are exhibiting is matched only by the lack of critical thinking you apply to your entitled existence every day. All you have to do to get out from under the feelings generated by having this pointed out to you is to step outside, spread your arms as wide as they go, and thank your ancestors for imbuing the world with such brazen privilege.