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Living in Barbieland

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Lead Environment and Climate Beat Reporter

AUGUST 01, 2023

In Greta Gerwig’s blockbuster hit “Barbie,” the Barbies are able to save themselves and restore Barbieland from the Kens’ exaggerated patriarchy when the girls all band together.

Of course, I don’t think female friendship is the sole answer to deconstructing the systemic power structure that is patriarchy. But, I do think that being a girl’s girl — aka actively giving less power to the men in one’s life and prioritizing female friendship — is a good first step.

I wore a pink fairy dress to see “Barbie” with my mom the other day, and before we left for the theater, my dad made a note about how I used to “hate” pink. 

I remember hating pink. I feel sorry for my younger self who felt that she needed to proclaim hatred for a color, simply because it represented femininity, and femininity was taught to equal weakness. How ingrained is misogyny that we have five-year-olds declaring that they hate being little girls, and by extension, hate themselves? 

Girls just want to be perceived as strong, autonomous and assured. We want to be treated with respect. It’s a shame that from a young age, girls are taught that in order to do so, we must reject femininity and resent all that represents it, like the color pink.

In actuality, the women in my life are the strongest people I know. They inspire me the most and care for me the deepest. I love being a girl, because it means that I am just like other girls. And other girls are the best, most beautiful people I know.

I think we’re in the middle of a paradigm shift with regards to what truly adds value to our lives, what should be centered in our lives and what the true meaning of life is. 

Before, the answer to life was assumed to be hidden somewhere within marriage and work, behind a white picket fence and a nuclear suburbia family. Prioritizing these social structures was thought to increase our individual wealth, social capital and thus happiness.

Now, I think that modern existential philosophy is all about uplifting our friendships, a more collective and community-based approach to life. I think we’re all starting to realize how depressing it is to live closed off from other people, to return from a 9-5 without meaningfully interacting with our neighbors.

Basically, friendship is the new meaning of life.

Personally, I’m a big fan of this philosophy. And over time, I’ve learned to give my romantic partners less importance in my life because I truly believe that my friends are the loves of my life. I’m so lucky to be in college, where I am constantly surrounded by my closest friends and am always in social spaces to meet new ones. 

This summer, through all of my “hot girl summer” ventures, there were lots of highs but a lot of disappointments as well, and new ideas and situations I’d never grappled with before.

My various summer flings, past romantic relationships, situationships, and one-night stands have taught me a lot, but most of all, I think that through them, I’ve been able to realize how strong my sense of self is at this point in my life. And through every disappointment, I had my support system of wonderful friends reaffirmed again and again.

I made so many new friends this summer, and even explored new friendships with past romantic partners (successfully!). When I think of this column — the ideas I’ve explored and the opinions I’ve expressed in it — all of that is built on conversations I have with my friends, and my lovely editor, Emma!

My girlfriends especially are the ones who are responsible for building my belief system and my sense of self, not my romantic partners. Also, everything I know about sex, I learned from my girlfriends (also other women posting advice on the Internet).

I no longer hold the belief that so-and-so guy “changed my life” or whatnot. Our culture puts so much hopeful-romantic emphasis on the “life-changing” lover, but I think that we can pull the curtain back on that — yes, our romantic partners can give us new experiences, but where do the newfound perceptions on life and love we procure from them really come from? 

The truth is that they come from conversations with friends. It’s cheesy, but it’s true: Lovers come and go. Our friends are forever.

I’m not made of plastic nor do I have a pink “Barbie Dreamhouse” where I can see all of my friends through its picturesque windows. However — and this is entirely based on my personal take-away from the film — I think Barbieland is more about the girls in it: their collective power, their camaraderie, their friendship.

So yes, I’m definitely living in my own Barbieland.

Amber X. Chen writes the Tuesday column on sex. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter.

AUGUST 01, 2023