Much has been said and written about the Barbie movie. If anything, the amount of hand-wringing over the movie’s virtues and vices is, at least, a testimony to its power as a thought-provoking cultural phenomenon. At the risk of being reductionistic, Barbie is about seeing that which has been unseen or even ignored. Particularly, Barbie is about getting society, especially men, to see what women go through and that women are more valuable than just “the fairer sex.” To give us this sight, Barbie gives us Barbieland, a world in which the Barbie dolls run everything and that the Ken dolls are powerless, oafish, eye candy. Seeing men in such positions is a powerful—and far from subtle— rhetorical device that makes men so uncomfortable that they finally see women and what they go through.
Might I offer a cultural juxtaposition to show that there is a subtler, perhaps even more powerful story that can get us to truly see women? The cultures of Jesus’ time—whether Greco-Roman or Judean—were far more misogynistic than ours. Women barely had standing in courts of law, were not afforded educations, nor considered even close to men in physical or mental abilities. They were seldom heard from and rarely seen for their true value. Women were background figures at best.