Dean Clough

August 9, 2023

Portico Darwin: Barbieland is Real and That's Not Good


4 Minute Read
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I mentioned on Monday that we saw Barbie this past Sunday.  My God is Margot Robbie f'ing hot.  There, that's the post. 

No, that's wrong.  In actuality, she's really f'ing hot, but that's still not what today is about.  

Since Sunday, I've had a chance to consider 3 different, but related, inputs, and - shocker - I have some thoughts.  

The 3 inputs:

  • The aforementioned pinkapalooza movie, Barbie 
  • A history of General Electric in Schenectady that I'm reading, entitled Electric City, by Julie Blackwelder
  • A powerful essay by Christine Emba, in The Washington Post, entitled "Men Are Lost" (PDF at the link; no paywall)

It's a real confluence, but I've done the hard work for you.  Electric City covers the Patriarchy to which some stone agers would love to return us.  Barbie does the same, but satirically.  Here are some quotes, from both Barbie and Electric City, that illustrate the world in which anyone much older than 20 - man or woman - grew up.

Why didn’t Barbie tell me about Patriarchy? (Barbie)

I’m a man without power.  Does that make me a woman?  (Barbie

(In the 20th century), female professional and technical workers, the well-educated female elite, best illustrated the high price of gender discrimination.  Women with university degrees in mathematics, science, or engineering found jobs at GE in which they "earned" hourly pay rather than garnering the salaries awarded to similarly educated men.  Women of any status had virtually no possibility of rising into supervisory positions over men. (Electric City)

Every night is boys' night.  (Barbie

An apology to my more traditional readers:  I, for one, am thrilled that women are finally being recognized as the equals they are, and always have been, to men.  If you know me, you know my philosophy:  women are as good or better than men at anything, apart from things depending upon physical size and strength. 

But that doesn't mean "men suck", and that the word "toxic" must always be the preface to the honorable word "masculinity."  But in Barbieland and now in real life, too, younger men especially are secondary, and more and more are getting lost in a world of basements, porn, meme stocks, and video games. 

You may have heard this already, especially from exemplars of manhood like Josh Hawley and Tucker Carlson:  masculinity is under attack, and we must return to the 1950s.  Like right now, and maybe we can dump the gays and the blacks at the same time?  These folks apparently prefer their women shoeless and with child.

But they're assclowns, dreaming of a world that is gone and thankfully not returning.

From the left?  I may get canceled for saying that not every single man that's ever lived has been an affront to humanity.  The whole "men suck" thing that permeated the 2010s, #MeToo, and the objective fact of the pre-21st century Patriarchy:  these all combine to mean you better fucking line up and repeat "men are the problem" over and over until you really start to wonder why vile animals like me and my gross brethren are even allowed to live.

I say enough with the man-hate.  Because here are some sobering factoids from Men Are Lost.  The pendulum has swung away from men -  but too far.

Today's problems (for men) are real and well-documented.  Deindustrialization, automation, free trade, and peacetime have shifted the labor market dramatically, and not in men's favor - the need for physical labor has declined, while soft skills and academic credentials are increasingly rewarded.  Growing numbers of working-age men have detached from the labor market, with the biggest drop in employment among men ages 25 to 34.

Men now receive about 74 bachelor's degrees for every 100 awarded to women, and men account for more than 70 percent of the decline in college enrollment overall.  In 2020, nearly half of women reported in a TD Ameritrade survey that they out-earn or make the same amount as their husbands or partners - a huge jump from fewer than 4 percent of women in 1960. 

No longer dependent on marriage as a means to financial security or even motherhood (a growing number of women are choosing to create families by themselves, with the help of reproductive technology), women are "increasingly selective," leading to a rise in lonely, single young men - more of whom now live with their parents than a romantic partner.  Men also account for almost 3 of every 4 "deaths of despair," either from a suicide, alcohol abuse, or an overdose. 

Now, no one in their right mind would say that women have it easy, or easier than men.  In fact, this monologue from Barbie brought me to tears.

It is literally impossible to be a woman. You (Barbie) are so beautiful and so smart, and it kills me that you don't think you're good enough.  Like, we have to always be extraordinary, but somehow we're always doing it wrong.

You have to be thin, but not too thin.  And you can never say you want to be thin. You have to say you want to be healthy, but also you have to be thin.  You have to have money, but you can't ask for money because that's crass.  You have to be a boss, but you can't be mean.  You have to lead, but you can't squash other people's ideas.  You're supposed to love being a mother, but don't talk about your kids all the damn time.  You have to be a career woman but also always be looking out for other people.

You have to answer for men's bad behavior, which is insane, but if you point that out, you're accused of complaining.  You're supposed to stay pretty for men, but not so pretty that you tempt them too much or that you threaten other women because you're supposed to be a part of the sisterhood.

But always stand out and always be grateful.  But never forget that the system is rigged.  So find a way to acknowledge that but also always be grateful.

You have to never get old, never be rude, never show off, never be selfish, never fall down, never fail, never show fear, never get out of line.  It's too hard!  It's too contradictory and nobody gives you a medal or says thank you!  And it turns out in fact that not only are you doing everything wrong, but also everything is your fault.

I'm just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us.  And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing women, then I don't even know.

But do you know what?  Men today face exactly the same type of challenges.  It is not a zero-sum game.

Women's rightful and far overdue gains DO NOT have to come at the expense or diminishment of men.  There is nothing wrong with masculinity, and its positive attributes should be celebrated, not denigrated.   Things like risk-taking, strength, self-mastery, protecting, and providing for others. 

The same is true for femineity.   
To me, that was the point of Barbie - we're all in this together, and different, but equal - and that's why it is a Killer movie.

Ken:  "I just don’t know who I am without you."
Barbie:  "You’re Ken."
Ken:  "But it’s 'Barbie and Ken.'  There is no just 'Ken.'"
Barbie:  "Maybe it's time to discover who Ken is.  Maybe it’s Barbie.  And it’s Ken."



Hunter Deuce:  a name synonymous with the great outdoors.  And drinking.  Here he is with something for both.

Hey, I just picked up one of these after the rec from a woman who was in line with me on Sunday at Stern Grove.  She raved about it for transporting wine - it's a lot easier to pack in a cooler than a bottle, it stands up, and you can just fold/roll it up when it's empty.

Thank you to any one that is reading this newsletter.


Let me show even more of my feminine side:  I cry every single time I hear this song (no joke). 

Here is the incomparable Carly Simon, and her ginormous "That's The Way I Always Heard It Should Be."

About Dean Clough