We finally saw the Barbie Movie!
Keith and I, along with my mom and my son-in-law, went to see the Barbie movie last weekend! Rebecca and Connor saw it on opening night, but with vacations and sicknesses and other stuff Keith and I haven’t been able to see it until now.
We thought it was great–and in today’s podcast we talk about some of the pushback, and then Rebecca joins me to talk about why so many people object to movies that women tend to love. Then we switch gears and look at some fascinating news coming out of South Korea on how women are refusing to get married or have kids–resulting in the lowest birth rate in the world. What’s going on? And is there a parallel to what is happening in the evangelical church?
I think there is! And I think the reaction to the Barbie movie shows that evangelicals need to take a close, hard look at South Korea–and learn its lessons.
Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:
Timeline of the Podcast
0:10 What’s been going on with life and the blog!
2:00 Keith and Sheila share their thoughts on the Barbie Movie
16:00 Responding to critiques of the movie
23:50 Rebecca shares her thoughts on gender socialization
29:00 The Bechdel Test
36:00 South Korean women are on a social strike?!
52:45 Get this merch before it’s gone for the summer!
Let’s talk The Barbie Movie!
Keith and I talk about how he felt seeing the movie as a man (he didn’t feel attacked at all); why Allan is actually the male role model, not Ken; and how many of the criticisms of the movie (like that it hates babies) show that critics aren’t even being fair (and may not have even watched the movie because they’re so out of left field).
I do have some concerns about the movie, in that I don’t think whitewashing Mattel as a corporation is a good idea, and I do think that there were some huge body image issues with Barbie that weren’t addressed.
But overall the message of the movie was that it isn’t good for one gender to exist in order to serve another gender, or to get its identity from the other gender.
We all need to figure out who we are, on our own. And we all are important, each of us.
Also, I think the reason people don’t like the Barbie movie isn’t what many are saying. It’s actually something more basic: People don’t like that Barbie chose to be alone, without Ken. People don’t like that Barbie is okay without Ken. That’s what’s so threatening.
Do you know about the Bechdel test?
It was started as a satirical joke by a woman sick of the lack of portrayal of woman in movies.
In order to pass the Bechdel test, a movie just needs to have three things:
- There must be two named female characters…
- who have a conversation with each other…
- about something other than a man.
Like, the bar is really, really low. Just two female characters who talk about something other than a man.
The majority of movies don’t pass the Bechdel test.
Yet when a movie that centers women does well, so much of evangelical Christianity freaks out.
Why weren’t they freaking out when James Bond movies portray women as bimbos and sex objects? Why weren’t they freaking out when the majority of movies don’t even have women having a normal conversation? Why aren’t they freaked out at how women are treated in the majority of movies?
According to the BBC, only 49% of movies nominated for Best Picture through to 2017 passed the Bechdel test. Women spoke 20% of the lines in the 2019 movies nominated for Best Picture.
I think evangelicalism would get a lot more traction if, instead of hitting the roof about a movie that is breaking all records that women love that they’re afraid MIGHT treat men badly (but really doesn’t), they spoke up against the vast majority of movies that treat women badly.
What’s up with South Korea?
Something very interesting, and sobering, has been happening in South Korea. A few years ago, I read an article I can’t find now that said that fertility rates declined in nations where women can have good economic opportunities, but culturally family life is still heavily patriarchal. In those countries, women tend to choose not to marry, because they don’t want to take care of a man. They want an equal partner, not to be someone’s mom.
So countries like Italy, Japan, and South Korea had lower fertility than countries like Denmark, the UK, or New Zealand.
Then I started seeing more articles about South Korea. Many women have sworn off four things: dating, marriage, sex, and babies. The rates of sexual violence are so high. The rates of incel behaviour and attitudes is staggering. And when married, women are expected to do all the childcare and all the housework, and also are expected to give up work.
And many women are just saying no.
So the fertility rate in Seoul is now .56.
I think this has something to say to us in evangelicalism, so listen in to see the connection!
Things Mentioned in the Podcast
- Our Patreon! Join for as little as $5 a month and support our research while getting access to our awesome Facebook group!
- Our Limited Edition Merch–it’s only available until the end of the month! Check out these great beach towels And don’t forget our Biblical Womanhood merch that’s available year-round!
- The Instagram Reel on Ken vs. Allan
- Carolyn Custis James’ book Malestrom
- Information on the Bechdel Test
- A Vox article that’s a great overview of the movie, but also includes Greta Gerwig’s quotes about how she saw Adam and Eve and Barbie
- The Atlantic: The real reason South Korean women aren’t having babies, and The New York Times: Women in South Korea are on Strike Against Being Baby-Making Machines
What do you think? Did you like the Barbie movie? What do you think about the Bechdel test? And do you think the evangelical church is going the way of South Korea in gender relations? Let us know in the comments below!
And please don’t comment negatively about the Barbie movie if you haven’t seen it. So many of the accusations about it aren’t basedin reality.
Sheila: Welcome to episode 202 of the Bare Marriage podcast. I am Sheila Wray Gregoire from baremarriage.com where we like to talk about healthy, evidence-based, biblical advice for your sex life and your marriage. Are you ready for Barbie? That is right. Today we are going to talk the Barbie movie because so many people have asked for it. And I am joined by my husband, Keith.
Keith: Hey, everybody.
Sheila: And Rebecca is going to be joining us later. We’re not only going to talk about Barbie. I have some really cool stuff to share about South Korean women and what it tells us about the evangelical church, so lots of interesting stuff coming. But we finally saw the Barbie movie. Yeah.
Keith: Mm-hmm. Took us forever.
Sheila: I know. I think Rebecca and Connor saw it on opening weekend.
Rebecca: Opening day.
Sheila: Opening day Rebecca says. Well, first of all, my back was out. We had family stuff. We went on vacation. We went away. We came back. Your back went out. You got COVID.
Sheila: And so we finally got to see it. And so now I’ve had so many messages asking me what I thought, and I get to share them with you today. I do need to say though that if you have been wondering what we have all thought there are a certain group of people that know what Rebecca thought at least and that have been having great conversations about the Barbie movie and about all kinds of things. And that’s our patron group. There’s a couple hundred people in it. We have so much fun on Facebook. It’s super personal. People get to know us behind the scenes. We’ve even been talking about the big hurricanes in California and praying for some of the people—some of our patrons who are there. And in October when Keith and I hit the road in our RV, we’re going to be visiting some of our patrons as we go across the border into the U.S. So I’m really excited about that. So you can join us on our patron group at patreon.com/baremarriage.
Keith: Mm-hmm. Little as $5 a month. Make a big difference. Change the conversation.
Sheila: That’s right. Yes. You can help support our research. Okay, baby. Barbie.
Keith: Yeah. It was fun. I actually really liked it.
Sheila: Yeah. I did too. It was great. It was cute.
Keith: It was funny.
Sheila: It was funny. It didn’t need to be life changing, super serious. I think it made a great point. Before we get into the meat of it, I do want to say two quick caveats that I think are important. And one is that I do agree with a lot of the critics about the white washing of Mattel. I think that there are some major issues with the company, with the composition, the CEOs, with some of the toys they’ve got. So I am a little bit uncomfortable with movies that tend to whitewash a company, so I get that. And when I used to speak more at women’s events and marriage conferences, one of the funniest routines I did was with a Barbie complaining about the body image issues that Barbie had caused and ideas like that. I can never do that routine again now. But I do get the critiques about—especially the body image issues around Barbie. I know there are some issues, and I’m not trying to ignore them. But I just want to talk about the content of the Barbie movie today.
Keith: That was amazing because you said I do have some concerns about the Barbie movie, right? And then you actually said some things that, I think, are fairly intelligent, and those are some things you really think about because those are really important issues that—to raise whereas what I’m used to hearing online is, “I have some criticisms about the Barbie movie. If you’re a Christian, you should never see it because it’s woke propaganda and Satanic demons will enter your brain.” It’s just crazy. The level of fear that they’re trying to generate over this movie.
Sheila: Yeah. We had that Satanic—
Keith: So I went thinking, “Oh my gosh. I’m going to get this ear full of feminism, and it’s going to be so heavy.” And it’s like no. No. No. It just wasn’t like that. It’s crazy.
Sheila: So as a guy, did you feel offended?
Keith: No. It’s a movie. Relax. I don’t understand it. I didn’t get it. I think that—I mean it asked and answered some questions that I think are important questions to talk about. And I think that if you have a very particular view of things and—can we do spoilers for the movie? I don’t want to do spoilers.
Sheila: I think it’s okay. I think most people have already seen it.
Keith: But one of the things that happens is Barbie lives in Barbie Land. And Barbie Land is for Barbies, and so the Kens are sidekicks to the Barbies. One of the lines is, “Barbie has a great day every day. Ken only has a good day when Barbie looks at him,” right? That’s one of the things at the beginning. It’s obviously mean to be a rib at the real world where women are often seen as clinging onto men, right? And so for instance, the Bechdel test—are you going to talk about that with the Barbie movie?
Sheila: Yeah. Yeah. Rebecca and I are going to that one later.
Keith: I won’t steal the thunder and talk about that. But women are often portrayed as only in relationship to men. So having a world where men are only seen in relationship to women is actually kind of funny and interesting for me. So if you’re the kind of person who is really, really invested in preserving a world where women only exist in relationship to men, you might be offended because these deeper issues—you don’t want to deal with them. Later in the movie, they go into the real world, and they see the real world as actually run by men. And Ken takes that back and makes Barbie Land a patriarchy. And then what happens is she comes back and restores things and all that kind of stuff. One of the ways that Barbie does that is they actually voice the cognitive dissonance of what it’s like to be a woman in the real world. And that snaps women out of it. And so the thing with this movie is, for a lot of people, it’s going to make them realize there’s a lot of cognitive dissonance going on here.
Sheila: Yeah. So if you have to be attractive but not so attractive that you tempt men. If you’re going to turn men down, you can’t do it too harshly, or they’ll get offended. Yeah. You have to speak up but not too directly, or they’ll think they’re not respected. It’s over and over and over again. You have to do this. I had that one post where I was looking at 100 ways—it was a handout from the Biblical Counseling Center. 100 ways that you can sin against your husband. And one of them was—two of them were, first of all, you have to be attractive. So you have to be sure that you’re attractive. But then another one was you can’t be offensively attractive. So it’s like you have to be attractive but not offensively attractive. And it’s just—how are we supposed to do that? And you just can’t ever win. And there was that moment where America Ferrara, who plays a woman in the real world—she gives this monologue about how difficult it is to be a woman, that is the thing—
Keith: Well, how impossible. Literally. Impossible it is.
Sheila: How impossible it is to be a woman. Yeah. I know in the opening weekend everyone was always clapping when that speech came on. But even in our theater when the movie had been out for a month, people were still like, “Wow,” and clapping. Yeah.
Keith: It’s just completely unjust. And so as a Christian, when you’re presented with this, you have to go, “Wait. This is unjust.” But if your whole worldview requires the status quo to stay the same, that’s going to be really uncomfortable for you because somewhere you’re going to have to acknowledge in your brain that you want to perpetuate an unjust system. And that’s going to be uncomfortable. And some people are going to react kind of emotionally to that.
Sheila: Seriously, they—they’re losing their minds over a movie that’s about a doll and about—that is really meant just to let women give voice to this impossible standard that we feel like, and men are really taking offense. I think one of the biggest and most important parts of the movie is at the end when it’s clear that Barbie is just not going to get together with Ken. She just doesn’t see him that way. By that, I mean the Margot Robbie Barbie character and the Ryan Gosling Ken character because there are other Barbies and Kens.
Keith: And they’re all called Barbie, and they’re all called Ken.
Sheila: And they’re all called Barbie, and they’re all called Ken. And Ryan Gosling is like, “But who am I because it’s Ken and Barbie?” And then Barbie says, “Well, maybe it’s Barbie, and it’s Ken.” So it’s not like Barbie and Ken. But it’s Barbie, and it’s Ken. And that’s actually quite an important line. And it’s like you are enough, and you need to figure out who you are without—
Keith: He’s Kenough.
Sheila: He’s Kenough. And I thought that was so important because—and I read an interview by—of Greta Gerwig, who made the movie, who wrote it and produced it and made it. And she said that in many ways it was harkening back to the Genesis story where we often interpret it as one gender being created for the other, where one gender is created to support the other and really doesn’t have an identity outside of the other. And that, in church, has been so much of women’s history where we haven’t been able to have identities outside of our relationships with men. There’s that whole umbrella of authority thing that Bill Gothard did, right? Where unless a woman is under a man’s umbrella of authority, she’s out of Christ’s protection, and she’s under the umbrella of Satan, where women just exist for men. And it’s not healthy. And that’s what the movie shows. It’s like if it’s not healthy when men do it then it’s not healthy when women do it either. So if it’s not healthy for men to only exist for women—
Keith: Yeah. Well, that’s the thing I was thinking is so many guys saying, “In Barbie Land, the men have no identities. They’re just—all they do—it’s just their relationship to Barbie. They have no identity of themselves. Isn’t that horrible?” And it’s just like all the women responding saying, “You’re so close. You’re almost getting it.”
Sheila: “You’re so close.” Exactly.
Keith: Because they don’t blink when it’s an all male Supreme Court, when it’s an all male CEO and board of directors, when it’s all male these things. But the idea of an all female Supreme Court is just—they’re losing their minds. It’s crazy because that’s so horribly wrong. And it’s like really. You just don’t get it. You just don’t see.
Sheila: There is this amazing Instagram reel that was shared in our patron group. I don’t know anything else about this creator, but I want to credit her with it and play it because I don’t like stealing other people’s ideas. And I got this idea from her. So I am going to play this reel that talks about how it sees masculinity. And I love that. Just be an Alan. We’re supposed to be an Alan.
Keith: Yeah. Yeah. Because I think one of the things that it highlights is the point of the movie is not to say men have hurt women for so long. It’s time for women to get back at men, right? Patriarchy hurts women. It also stunts men, and it does not let men flourish either. Men get to be in charge, but it’s ultimately not for their good. It harms them as well too. Not in the same direct ways as it harms women. I don’t mean to minimize what patriarchy does to women. But it’s not that it’s a good thing for men, ultimately, either. And I think that’s what she’s kind of saying there.
Sheila: Yeah. Exactly. Yeah. Alan gets to just be Alan. And in doing so, he’s his own person. And he makes great decisions, and he’s just a good guy. And that’s what we should be aiming for. But instead what happens is you’re—everyone is trying to be the top dog. And there’s a great book by Caroline Custis James. She just came out with another edition of this actually called Malestrom. Her first book was about how patriarchy hurts women, but this is really about how patriarchy hurts men too and how the Bible, when you look at it, is actually over and over and over again dismantling patriarchy. So patriarchy says it’s about money. It’s about status. The Bible says no. It’s not. Patriarchy says the firstborn gets—is the most important, and patriarchy—and the Bible is constantly upending that, chooses Jacob over Esau, and chooses Judah over Reuben, and chooses—and often chooses someone who isn’t necessarily the firstborn. And over and over again, patriarchy is upended because patriarchy hurts men. When you have to always get to the top, when you have to always succeed, you have to always beat everybody else then the people that could actually help you find self actualization and figure out who you are in your purpose you end up stepping on them and using them because patriarchy is all about how you use people, not how you actually become vulnerable and form relationships.
Keith: Yeah. Because the whole point is where are you in the pecking order. That’s the point. It’s all about the hierarchy, right? And so when people say it’s very, very important for you to realize there’s hierarchy in marriage. The man is in charge. The woman is the second in command. That’s really, really, really important. And then everything Jesus says is the last shall be first. Whoever wishes to be the greatest must be the servant of all. And it totally throws all of that out the window. It completely flips it. And they don’t see it. They say, “Jesus would promote hierarchy.” Except that He never does anywhere in the Gospels.
Sheila: Yeah. Yeah. And, of course, I mean—and I really—I think it’s so interesting that when you look at the original Barbie Land, Barbie World, before the patriarchy enters the women weren’t in competition with each other. They were all, “Hi, Barbie.” “Hi, Barbie.” They were all having a great time with each other.
Keith: And they also weren’t harmful to the men or expecting the men to serve them.
Sheila: That’s right. The men just didn’t matter.
Keith: They just ignored the men. The men just didn’t matter, right?
Sheila: The men just didn’t matter to them. Yeah. So they weren’t actually putting the men in subordinate positions. They just simply matter to them. But when the men starting vying for power and vying for women then they started to fight each other. And that’s where a lot of this came in. And, of course, the great scene with Simu Liu—any Canadian has to like Asian Ken. Asian Ken from—
Keith: Kenadian kenergy in this movie.
Sheila: Yes. Exactly. From Canada’s amazing sitcom, Kim’s Convenience. Simu Liu there. Which, by the way, is filmed around the corner from where you and I lived when we had babies. So yeah. So that was our neighborhood. So yes.
Keith: But that great big scene with Simu and Ryan, and they were having a massive dance off, fight off, sing off kind of.
Sheila: Right. And it’s like what would happen if you just got to be an Alan. And why is it that we think that Alan is gay? Because I’ve seen that so many times. Alan is gay because he’s not ripped or something the way that—
Keith: Oh, but he beats up all those constructions workers.
Sheila: But he beats up all the construction—it’s just—it’s so funny. I find it so funny. Okay. Something that people are also losing their minds over which I couldn’t figure out what they were even talking about when I saw this critique. I’m like I saw the movie. I don’t have a clue what you mean is when people are saying that it’s totally against the pro life position.
Keith: Oh, really? Okay.
Sheila: And I told one of the reasons why. There is a second reason. So yeah.
Keith: Well, I think you said something before about—at the beginning of the movie, this is another spoiler alert. At the beginning of the movie, there’s a bunch of girls playing with dolls. And then they smash all the baby dolls, and they break them. And they break—the heads break and stuff like that too. So they were seeing that as infanticide. Is that what they’re seeing it as?
Sheila: Yeah. I think it was against babies and against motherhood. That’s not—when people make this critique, you have to wonder did you even watch the movie and listen to what it was saying because that was not the point of that scene. But if you wanted to find an excuse to critique Barbie, you could take 30 seconds of that, blow it up, put it as an illustration in a sermon about this godless movie that is attacking babies when that was not what that scene was about. And there’s this whole monologue that goes along with that scene that explains what it’s about that’s actually quite cool.
Keith: It actually was quite funny. This is one of the things—it’s like almost a shot for shot—it’s like an homage, I guess you’d call it, of the opening of 2001: A Space Odyssey, right?
Keith: With the great big monolith and all the Neanderthals with their bones and stuff banging on things. It’s quite a cute homage to a previous movie.
Sheila: Right. But the point of it was what they were saying was that for years girls could only play with baby dolls because the only thing they were allowed to pretend to be was mothers. And so their play period was trying to prime them to be mothers because that’s the only thing girls were allowed to think about as they grew up. And then Barbie came because the point was—and this is what the inventor of Barbie said is they wanted to give girls the chance to imagine being an adult that wasn’t necessarily a mother. And so you had Barbies of all these different professions, and that’s why Barbie in Barbie World actually thinks that they have fixed the real world by showing little girls that you can be all these different things. You can be an astronaut and a physicist and a doctor and a president and a Supreme Court justice. You can be all of these things. And that was the point of it, and people took that scene to mean that it’s against motherhood, which it’s not, because the very end of the movie—one of the main takeaways was America Ferrara, who is a woman in the real world, her plea to create an ordinary Barbie where it’s okay if you’re just a mom. It’s okay if you decide not to be a mom. It’s okay if you’re a working mom and the husband looks after the kids. All of these things are okay. It’s allowed to just be ordinary. You don’t have to have an amazing job. And that is the point. That we need to stop just making amazing Barbies and also make ordinary Barbies because all of those choices are good. And so to think that it’s against motherhood, it’s simply not. And when pastors or social media tells you that it is, it means they have not watched the movie, and they haven’t watched it fairly. And they’re looking for reasons to bash it. But there’s a second reason that they say that it’s anti—that it’s not pro life. Do you know what that second reason is?
Keith: No. What’s that?
Sheila: I had no idea either because again—and I’ve seen the movie. Okay? I am pro life. I don’t even get it, right? It’s Midge. The pregnant Barbie that’s always ostracized. They say because they’re ostracizing the pregnant Barbie this means that they don’t like pregnant women.
Keith: Okay. So did anybody know about Midge before this movie? Now we all do. Midge got kind of highlighted.
Sheila: Here’s the funny part. Okay. So in the movie, one of the things they do is they show all the Barbies that were released by Mattel, and then Mattel had to take them back because it was a really stupid idea. One of them was the Skipper doll that I still own. It was only available from 1975 to 1977, and I had it as a little girl. But Skipper was like—she starts out like 11. And then you pull her arm. And all of a sudden she gets taller. She gets this really thin waist and really big boobs. Okay? So it’s to show kids about puberty. And this lasted two years until people realized that’s a really dumb idea. And in the movie, they show the Skipper doll and agree that it’s a dumb idea. So they have a variety of Barbies that were released and then were taken back, and that’s part of the comedy of the movie is all of these Barbies that are sort of off to the side. That aren’t the main deal because they were taken back. And Midge was one of them. So Mattel released a pregnant Barbie. Okay? And the world went ballistic including a lot of Christians. I actually remember this. This was in 2002. And people were complaining including a lot of Christians that it was glorifying teen pregnancy. And so Mattel took it back. All right?
Keith: And now 40 years later, 50 years later, they’re criticizing—
Sheila: No. Now 20 years later—because it was in the height of purity culture. 2002.
Keith: Oh, is that when it was? Okay.
Sheila: 2002. So Christians lose their—
Keith: Minds over this.
Sheila: – minds over this in 2002 about how could we glorify teen pregnancy. And it wasn’t just Christians, but they were a big part of it. I remember this. And now those same Christians are saying, “See? The Barbie movie is isolating or is denigrating pregnant women because it’s making fun of Midge,” when you’re—you can’t blame the movie for making fun of Midge when you’re the reason that Midge was recalled. Make up your mind.
Keith: Yeah. Exactly. Yeah. Again, cognitive dissonance. So it’s not an anti life movie. It really isn’t.
Sheila: No. Exactly. So again, if your pastor is telling you this, that is a sign that they have an agenda, and they haven’t actually watched the movie fairly.
Keith: And it’s not an anti men movie either too because—at the beginning, they’re in Barbie Land where women run everything and men are a side—just side notes. Then they got to the real world, and they see what happens here. And then the real world comes invading into Barbie Land. And then when Barbie comes back, she doesn’t put it back to exactly the way it was before. It is now—instead of saying, “We’re going to go back to everything the way it was before, and you, men, get back in your place,” it’s, “We all need to bring to the table what we each uniquely have to give.” Ken is lamenting that, “Who am I now? It’s Barbie and Ken.” It’s Barbie, and it’s Ken. You each have something you can give. And so it’s very much about valuing both. Because what I see happening a lot in some sections of the church is they talk about how men and women are supposed to both have these roles that complement each other. But it’s like if we complement each other, we both should have a voice at the table? If we’re both so different and God has given unique things to each of us, then we silence either one at our peril. And we have historically silenced women. That is provable historic fact. In the Barbie movie, they don’t silence the men at the end. They want everyone to speak. They just want the Ken, if he wants to be on the Supreme Court, to have some credentials, to not just—
Sheila: Have some experience first. Yes. And not just do beach. You can’t just beach and then expect to be on the Supreme Court. So all right. Well, I’m going to bring your daughter on now.
Keith: Sounds good.
Sheila: And we’re going to talk about—thank you for your thoughts. I have brought my daughter, Rebecca Lindenbach, on to the podcast.
Sheila: And we also have a special guest for those of you on YouTube. Rebecca found—
Rebecca: I found Growing Up Skipper.
Sheila: – Growing Up Skipper.
Rebecca: I found it.
Sheila: Now her arm no longer works.
Rebecca: Because Katie and I spent so many years making her boobs get bigger.
Sheila: Yes. And so her boobs—she’s forever in the 11—she had definite weird Barbie vibes.
Rebecca: She is definite. And I will say we got all my mom’s Barbies when I—I must have been—what? 9 years old when you gave us your Barbies?
Sheila: Yeah. Mm-hmm.
Rebecca: And they were a lot less weird Barbie vibes when we first got them. They were very well taken care of.
Sheila: Yes. And then you guys got to them. Oh well. That’s okay. So all right. Any thoughts that you wanted to add about the Barbie movie?
Rebecca: I have lots of thoughts. I loved the Barbie movie. Connor loved the Barbie movie. Connor actually specifically did—specifically planned out laundry to make sure that his pink polo shirt would be ready for when we went for our date night. So he was very into it. I think the thing that I find so—the reason that I loved the Barbie movie—I’ll say this. Okay? Because everyone thinks, “Oh, people just love it has to have some agenda that they like,” and that’s actually not what it is for me. I love that there is so many things happening right now around the world in media that are just pure feminine joy. It’s just a sisterhood experience. We went to Barbie opening night. The 7:20 showing opening night. The showing. You could not walk in the movie theater because it was packed full of girls, women wearing pink. And everyone is going, “Hi, Barbie.” “Hi, Barbie.” “Hi, Barbie.” Right? And even now when you’re walking around and I see someone totally in pink, I’m like, “Hey, Barbie.” And they’re like, “Hi, Barbie.” Except for one woman I did it to who did not know what I was talking about and it was so embarrassing. But it’s still worth it. It’s still worth it. No. But I think there’s just—there’s has been for so long in all the media that we pretty much consume there’s this idea that the male is the standard, right? I mean think about the not like other girls trope. Even think about the things that—think about hobbies and music, right? If you like Taylor Swift, you’re basic. But if you’re a girl who likes AC/DC, you’re cool. What’s the difference? Genuinely. Taylor Swift is one of the most well renowned artists who writes all of her own music. She’s genuinely very good, and she is globally beloved by fans. The only problem is that her fans are female.
Sheila: Yeah. And she’s an amazing musician.
Rebecca: She’s fantastic.
Sheila: She’s tackled so many different musical genres, and she’s done them all amazing.
Rebecca: Very, very, very few artists have had as many genre shifts as she has. She has done folk music. She has done indie music. She’s done pop. She’s done—we all know she’s done country. She’s done so many different things. And I think that this is the kind of thing that a lot of us are just kind of tired of where I think there’s a lot of women who just want to be allowed to be women and to like being girls and to like being girly sometimes and not be called ditzy and frivolous for it. Just be like, “I just want to enjoy what—I just want to enjoy this part of me,” instead of having to constantly say, “Well, I’m not like that. I’m not like other girls.” Because look at the difference, for example, a guy who says, “Well, I’m not like other guys,” what does he mean? “I’m not a jerk,” but he doesn’t mean, “I’m not—I’m one of the girls.” That’s not what he means. He means, “No. I’m one of the guys, but I’m just not those ones.” When a girl says, “I’m not like other girls,” she’s says, “Well, I’m one of the guys.” Right? We are trained from such a young age to see things that are girly as secondary. I mean even think about the hobbies that you have as a young boy or the interests you have. Boys tend to be socialized to like trucks and machinery and things like super heroes and the things that grown men are also into. How many grown women do you know who still collect Barbies?
Rebecca: No. Because as soon as we’re grownups, what are our hobbies supposed to be? They’re supposed to be—and I have this—this is my list of hobbies. Gardening, right? You’re supposed to be super into cooking or maybe you’re really into—sure. You can be into art. That’s fine. You can be into art.
Rebecca: But a lot of it is very family oriented, decoration oriented, home oriented, and those things are not bad things. It’s just that for us to do the things that are girlhood oriented the same way that guys are allowed to have things that activates the inner joy of their childhood. Girls don’t have those things. We’re supposed to leave those in childhood.
Sheila: And then when we do have something, a pastor decides to bash it from the stage.
Rebecca: Well, and it’s held to an impossible standard. You have the Barbie movie where some people are saying it didn’t go far enough, and others are saying it went too far. And it’s like why isn’t it just allowed to be.
Sheila: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s a great question. Let’s talk about the Bechdel test because you and I were talking about this. And then I looked up a whole bunch of stats for it. Are you ready?
Rebecca: So the Bechdel test—I’ll explain it quickly because you’re going to tell all the stats.
Sheila: Yeah. Sure. Explain it.
Rebecca: The Bechdel test is a test that’s used in media to just see if it passes even the most basic sexism kind of—or—not sexism so much. Female representation. Okay?
Sheila: Okay. There’s three components.
Rebecca: There’s three components. It has to have two named female characters. They have to talk.
Sheila: To each other.
Rebecca: To each other about something other than a man.
Sheila: That’s it.
Rebecca: That’s it. Just those three things.
Sheila: Just two characters with names who have to talk to each other about something other than a man. So they just have to have a conversation.
Rebecca: So does it have female representation? That’s really the question.
Sheila: Yeah. And about half of movies don’t pass that test.
Sheila: That simple thing. They don’t pass that test. Now think about how men—how so many men, and especially Christians, are losing their minds about the Barbie movie. But do women lose their minds over James Bond and how James Bond shows women?
Rebecca: Well, even simpler, Oppenheimer doesn’t pass the Bechdel test. No one is calling that one an affront to women. No one is talking about how—no one is bashing—I mean what would they bash? A nuclear bomb with a Bible? What are they doing? The outrage is not there. So yeah. The Barbie movie might not represent men as anything other than how they typically represent women, but no one is getting mad about how they represent women.
Sheila: Yeah. I know. It’s crazy. And the funny thing is people will say, “Well, maybe they just don’t put women in movies because it doesn’t make money.” That’s not true. That’s not true. So let me—
Rebecca: Look at the Barbie movie.
Sheila: Let me read you this. Let me read you this. Okay. So there was an analysis done from 2013, and they found that movies that passed the Bechdel test earned $4.22 billion in the U.S. while those that failed earned $2.66 billion leaving them to conclude that a way for Hollywood to make money would be to put more women onscreen. A 2014 study from 538 based on data from 1,615 films released from 1990 to 2013 concluded that the median budget of films that passed the test was 35% lower than that of the others, but they had a 37% higher return on investment. So they’re not paying as much and spending as much on these movies, but they make a whole lot more money. And in 2018, the Creative Artists Agency analyzed revenue and budget data from the 350 top grossing films of 2014 to 2017. They concluded that female led films financially outperformed other films and that those that passed the Bechdel test, 60% of films, significantly outperformed the others. They noted that of all films since 2012 which took in more than a billion dollars all had passed the test.
Rebecca: That’s amazing.
Sheila: So why is it that we don’t have more movies that just do more than two female named characters—
Rebecca: No. Not even more. They just have to have two.
Sheila: They just have to have two who talk to each other—who have a conversation with each other about something other than a man. That should not—the bar is so low it’s in the basement. And it doesn’t pass it. And when you look at the average talking time of characters in movies, I think the ones nominated for Best Picture in 2019—the average was 20% female.
Rebecca: Well, and I’m looking—I’m thinking about the other big movies that are very female movies. Okay? Like female movies. You have Clueless, for example. Love me Clueless. “Ugh. As if.” It’s the best movie.
Sheila: Love that movie. Oh my gosh. And for people who don’t know, Clueless is Emma. Clueless is Jane Austen’s Emma.
Rebecca: Clueless is camp classic. It’s outstanding. And if you haven’t seen it, you have to watch it. It did not age particularly well, and it’s a product of the 90s. But it is a camp classic movie. Must watch. But in that movie, it passes the reverse Bechdel test. There’s tons of scenes where named male characters talk about something other than a woman. There’s tons of them. I mean you even have the scene where the stoner and—what’s his name? The stoner guy talks to the teacher. They’re both named. I can’t remember their names. But they’re both named. And they talk about his—how late he’s been and how he’s often (cross talk).
Sheila: Yeah. To be fair, I don’t remember the names of the main characters either. I remember the actresses but not the main characters’ names.
Rebecca: Yeah. Exactly. No. And in—let’s take another one. Right?
Sheila: Legally Blonde.
Rebecca: You have Legally Blonde. Right? Yeah. Of course. Warner and Callahan talk about the case. Yeah. Warner and Callahan talk about the case. Callahan and Emmett talk about lots of stuff. I, obviously, have watched Legally Blonde way more times than I’ve watched Clueless. I know every single character in that movie. No. When you look at the stereotypical man films, they’re not passing the Bechdel test. The stereotypical female films primarily are even though they’re for women. They still have male representation as people, not just pieces of meat.
Sheila: Yeah. Yeah. And I guess I do find this really difficult that men, and especially Christian men, are so upset about this movie. And I do want to say this one thing too. I think the thing that they’re upset about is that the way that they see this movie, which I don’t think is accurate, is that it portrays the ideal world as being female dominated. And then it switches to patriarchy, and then it puts it back to the way it should be which is female dominated.
Rebecca: Yeah. And you completely miss the point of the movie.
Sheila: Completely missed the point because the original Barbie World is not supposed to be the ideal world. Barbie World exists only as a corrective to the real world. The point of Barbie World—and they make this point in the movie. The reason there’s a Barbie World is to show girls that you can be all of these things. You can be whatever you dream. You don’t need to be confined by the real world, which is trying to confine you. So Barbie World is not supposed to be this ideal world. It is supposed to be a corrective.
Rebecca: It’s a medication, right? We’re not supposed to take medication unless there’s something wrong, right?
Sheila: Yeah. And so girls are invited to have a safe place to imagine. And Christian pastors are trying to take that away and say that that is evil that these girls are imagining a world where they get to be anything.
Rebecca: Yeah. Where, again, they’re not even imagining ridiculing Ken. No one ridicules Ken. Barbie actually says, “Ken, you’re very brave.” She actually is quite kind to Ken. She just doesn’t like him.
Sheila: And that actually is, I think, the real issue that people are upset about the Barbie movie is it isn’t that Barbie takes over or that Barbies have all the positions of authority. It’s that in Barbie World Barbie just doesn’t really need Ken. Barbie is okay on her own, and that’s what they’re reacting to. And so I want to transition actually to talk about South Korea for a minute.
Rebecca: Right. Yeah. These articles.
Sheila: Yeah. So we’re going to do the—we’re going to do polar opposites here. We’re going to come out of the fun toy movie media world and go into some actual stuff that’s happening in South Korea. So I’ve been following some really interesting social trends that have been going on in the country. And there was a really interesting article in The Atlantic, a really interesting article in The New York Times. And I read The New York Times article, and then I bought the book that the woman who wrote the article wrote and just showing what is going on in South Korea where women are reacting to a society that is still heavily male dominated. And they’ve had a huge me too movement. It’s the biggest me too movement in Asia. It’s been really successful. Women have been fighting a lot. But what’s really key and why this is in the news so much is that the birth rate in South Korea has dropped through the floor.
Rebecca: Isn’t it the lowest now?
Sheila: It’s the lowest in the world, I believe. I may be wrong on that, but it’s pretty darn close to the lowest in the world. And so South Korean women have largely gone on a marriage strike and a baby strike. Okay? So I have a whole bunch of quotes. I just pulled a whole bunch of quotes from all these articles that I want to read that kind of tell the story and then invite people to read more about it and look into it because I think the reason that this is important is that it mirrors what is happening in the evangelical church today in North America. So bear with me as I explain this. All right? So here we go. Let me read you this. “A 2022 survey found that more women than men—65% versus 48%—didn’t want children. They’re doubling down by avoiding matrimony (and its conventional pressures) altogether. The other term in
South Korea for birth strike is “marriage strike.” And the trend is killing South Korea. For three years in a row, the country has recorded the lowest fertility rate in the world.” So yeah. We were right. “With women of reproductive age having fewer than one child on average. It reached the “dead cross,” when deaths outnumbered births, in 2020, nearly a decade earlier than expected.
Rebecca: Okay. The article goes on to say this, “President Yoon Suk-yeol, elected last year, has suggested feminism is to blame for blocking “healthy relationships” between men and women. But he’s got it backward—gender equality is the solution to falling birth rates. Many of the Korean women shunning dating, marriage, and childbirth are sick of pervasive sexism and furious about a culture of violent chauvinism. Their refusal to be “baby-making machines,”—that’s their quote. “According to the protest banners I’ve seen, is retaliation. ‘The birth strike is women’s revenge on a society that puts impossible burdens on us and doesn’t respect us,’ says Jiny Kim, 30, a Seoul office worker who’s intent on remaining childless.”
Sheila: Mm-hmm. And so this is what’s happening is women, especially millennial women, are—they’re not dating. They’re not having kids, and they’re totally happy doing that. There’s something called the four B in Korean, but it’s four nos. It translates to no somehow. And here say no to dating, no to sex with men, no to marriage, and no to childbirth. Okay. So they’re all doing this, and it’s largely because in South Korea they are able to be employed and do okay. South Korea has still one of the largest gender pay gaps, and it doesn’t rank really high on measures of the status of women. But they’re able to do okay on their own. And so there is no benefit to getting married.
Rebecca: Yeah. It’s a society where women have been encouraged to step into the roles typically taken on by men. But men have not been encouraged to step in and take on some roles commonly used by women.
Sheila: Right. And gender based violence is really common. Incel culture is huge there. Online incel culture, revenge porn, all of this is huge. And women are just saying forget it. I don’t want to be part of this. So yeah. Let me read some more. “Many young Korean men, however, have declared themselves victims of women’s activism. President Yoon rose to power last year by leveraging this resentment. He echoed the dog whistle of men’s rights advocates, declaring that structural sexism doesn’t exist in South Korea and vowing tougher punishment for false reports of sexual assault.”
Rebecca: Yeah. Because that’s the problem.
Sheila: Mm-hmm. So women have protested. And then there’s been a backlash and a huge incel backlash. If we think the incel culture is bad in North America, what I’ve been reading in this book about the incel culture in South Korea, it’s incredible. And the women are just saying no. Forget it. I don’t need you.
Rebecca: What I find funny too is that this is still showing that half of women are still going to have babies pretty much. It’s just under half. It’s not that much which shows women are having babies if they’re finding people worth having babies with. The problem is just that—and you’re in a culture that expects nothing of the men really and expects the women to be able to do both a man and a woman’s job, why on earth would you?
Sheila: Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. And South Korea has done everything. They’ve spent $150 billion in the last decade or two trying to get women to have babies. So you’re treated so well if you have a baby. They’re trying to do everything, and women just don’t want—and it’s not that they don’t want babies. It’s that they don’t want babies with these men. And they would be happier on their own. In The Atlantic article, they tell the story of one 32-year-old woman. She’s single. She always thought she’d be married in her 20s. But then she started looking around her, and she just didn’t want to marry any of these men. So she says she’s gone on a few blind dates in the last few years, and she said she always found the men closed-minded, with a traditional way of thinking. “Men,” she said, “always want to debate with me. Why are you thinking that way? They all feel like they need to teach me.” And then it goes on to talk about all the gender based violence and the incel culture. But there’s other areas too where men are still really put under the stereotypical Ken thing. Okay? Where a man is expected to pay for a house before he gets married.
Rebecca: And it’s so expensive. It’s so expensive.
Sheila: It’s so expensive. And so men are really in a bind as well.
Rebecca: Yeah. I mean this is the same thing. It’s toxic cultures are going to be toxic for everyone.
Sheila: But South Korea has come far enough that women can get good jobs. But the mental load has not changed. Women are still supposed to totally look after all the childcare. They’re the ones who are supposed to stop working if they have kids. Men simply do not help with housework in the same way. And what a number of studies have shown is that in cultures where women—where there’s relative economic mobility and freedom for women but the practices at home haven’t changed from traditional patriarchy, the fertility rate drops. So Italy. They started noticing this in Italy first. Japan, South Korea. Very different from countries like Sweden or Denmark where the fertility rates are actually starting to increase a little bit now because women have choices. And the men have really stepped up.
Rebecca: Yeah. And I think is—that’s exactly what this proves is we’d just be silly if we thought, “Oh, this is just a South Korea problem.” Of course, it’s not. This is a human problem. This is a human problem we’re seeing everywhere. And in the evangelical church, in particular, we’re seeing this starting to happen. I mean you wouldn’t believe how many messages we get from women who are like, “I am a really strong Christian. I love Jesus with everything in me. I cannot marry these men.”
Sheila: Yeah. I cannot.
Rebecca: I cannot marry these men. This is scary. This is dangerous.
Sheila: So let me list the things that are going on in Korea and then see if this sounds familiar with our evangelical culture. Okay? So what happens when women have economic opportunities, but men in the culture still expect women to do all the housework and childcare, to defer to them, to wait on them when there’s a lot of gender based violence, when that violence is minimized, and when women’s reports are not believed, and when there’s often retaliation when women make a report, when there’s a huge online culture of men in their cultural group deriding feminism saying, “Feminism is the cause of all the evils in the world,” and deriding women for not being feminine and for expecting equality, when leaders start saying there is no structural sexism—we’re all equal. Different rules but we’re just equal. And that feminism is the problem, and they’re getting rid of any talk of sexism existing. Like Locke attacking the Barbie house. And at the same time, there’s a huge financial crunch where it’s really hard to afford housing. And all of that stuff is happening right now in North America too. And what happens? Well, in South Korea, the women just stop.
Rebecca: Yeah. Exactly.
Sheila: They stop dating, and there’s a great sisterhood. They create a great sisterhood, and they just have good lives all around.
Rebecca: Yeah. They’re not lonely. That’s what I find so—that’s what makes me happy to see because I mean I’m someone who is married to an awesome man and who has kids, who I love very, very much. I genuinely don’t know—I’ve always wanted to be a mom. Right? But I always knew that if I couldn’t find someone who was worth it, frankly, that I would not get married. I would rather not be married than be married to someone who wasn’t a good fit. And I just—I’m so happy to hear that at least the women who are in that situation that I’m personally glad I didn’t have to be in. They’re making amazing community. They’re being each other’s village, right? And I think that’s lovely. And I think that’s something that we could maybe look into how we can do a little bit better over here as well.
Sheila: But there is a difference though. And here is the difference with evangelical community and South Korea. So all those things that I read are definitely true in the evangelical community, right? The incel, the online stuff, the blaming feminism, whatever. But in the west, evangelical women have a choice.
Rebecca: Yes. They do.
Sheila: Because evangelical women can leave the evangelical subculture, go into the regular world, or go into other types of churches including—not all evangelical churches are bad. I mean there’s some really good evangelical churches. So when I’m saying evangelical church, I’m deriding more the—
Rebecca: The Focus on the Family, the Desiring God, the Southern Baptist.
Sheila: The people that like Love and Respect. The people who like Love and Respect. They can find other churches where men aren’t like that. And so—
Rebecca: And I want to be clear. Obviously, there are tons of men in Korea who aren’t like this either. Obviously. Obviously. The problem is that there is a cultural norm where our cultural norm of sexism is being dismantled by the general population, and evangelicalism is holding onto it. Rather in Korea, it would be reversed where there are groups of people especially young people it seems who are actively working to reverse the sexism in Korea. But they’re a smaller group, and the larger cultural context of the entire country has normalized a lot of very patriarchal ideas.
Sheila: Yeah. And it doesn’t work because when you do that, it leads to no fertility, right? A birth rate of what was it? 0.78? Or in Seoul, it’s 0.59. And if the evangelical church cares so much about the family, which they do—and the family is important. Raising kids are important. I loved having you guys. Okay.
Rebecca: But also it is genuinely important for society. There’s a reason why it’s a crisis.
Sheila: Yeah. There’s a reason why, and these articles talk a lot about that. But if we care about the family, then we need to stop yelling at women for not liking the men and start saying to men, “Why is it that you don’t have something to offer?”
Rebecca: Well, because we read those studies earlier. I think it was last season. Where it’s not that women don’t want to get married, it’s that women are no longer settling for bad relationships. Right? It’s just that in the past women have had very few opportunities, very few options, and so it was get married to the best guy available. Right? And now it’s, “Get married if you meet the best guy.” And that’s a fundamentally different choice, right? And so what’s happening now is men are being held to the same standard that women are being held to instead of, for years, it was just, “Okay. Well, if there are 10 guys, I’m going to try to marry the best one.” Right? And that’s something that, as Christians, I actually think we should be embracing because anything that asks us to actually step up to the plate and become more and to develop and improve and grow that should be something that we’re okay with, that we’re happy about, that we’re like, “Yeah. This will be better for society.” It is better for society if both men and women are active parents, if both men and women are able to keep a house, if both men and women are both able to do emotional kin keeping and build really strong communities and friendships. That is better for society if everyone is doing these things. And yet, it’s being seen as this attack on Christian values. And I’m like, “At what point are Christian values just not Christian anymore?” Because to me, I think that a Christian value that says women not wanting to be responsible for the equivalent of—I think it’s something like 3 times the amount of time spent on the home even when they’re still working full time. How is that not a Christian value? To ask men to actually step you and do the same thing that their wife is doing.
Sheila: I think what we need to realize is that men are not entitled to an easier life than women just because they are men. Men are not entitled to women’s bodies, to women’s work, to all of these things, and that’s what the incel community teaches. And quite frankly, that’s what a lot of the evangelical community has been teaching.
Rebecca: Yeah. Absolutely.
Sheila: And yelling at women over this Barbie movie is just showing it. It’s like look. We want to be able to dream just like boys dream. And we also want great relationships. And most of us also want to be mothers, but we’re not willing to do that alone.
Rebecca: Yeah. We don’t actually want relationships that are Barbie and Ken, right? Or Ken and Barbie. We just want Barbie and Ken.
Sheila: Or Alan.
Rebecca: Or Alan. Exactly. Everyone find an Alan. Yeah.
Sheila: So evangelicalism is seeing some of the same effects as South Korea is seeing and that our youngest generations of women are leaving the church in higher numbers than men are. And this has never, ever happened in history before. Just like the birth rate has never fallen like that before so women have never left the church at higher numbers than men. And so men have never been more religious than women until today. And that’s what we’re seeing in the church is that if you look at generation—I say Zed because I’m Canadian—but Generation Zed women religious men outnumber religious women. Never happened before in history. It’s just a new thing in the last few years, and it’s accelerating. And I think when you look at millennial women I think we’re going to start to see similar trends. We probably already are if you look at who has come back from COVID—going to church and who hasn’t. We’re going to see the same thing with Gen Alpha. And if we want to save women in the church, if we want women to keep coming to the church, then stop yelling at them for the Barbie movie.
Rebecca: Stop yelling at them for just being women wanting to just exist as women and not exist as appendages to men.
Sheila: And stop denying that there is sexism and stop blaming feminism for everything, for pity’s sake. Remember the Bechdel test, okay? And women are so sick of always being portrayed as bimbos.
Rebecca: Yes. Yeah. Well, I mean there’s a manic pixie dream girl trope. There’s not really the equivalent for men. There’s not really. I mean Ken is the closest we get to it frankly.
Sheila: Jesus saw women as people. Unique people. They didn’t all have to conform in the same way. And it’s okay for us to see women like that too. And so as we are finishing up just quick reminder, we have limited edition merch that talks about women and how they are. And that is our beach towels, which are about to go out of our store at the end of the summer.
Rebecca: Oh, wow. Okay.
Sheila: We have our—
Rebecca: I haven’t actually seen this yet.
Sheila: Yeah. So these are our She Deserves Better.
Rebecca: Yes. Anyone who is on YouTube can see. Oh, these actually feel very nice. Cool.
Sheila: All of our She Should Knows from She Deserves Better. She should know happy isn’t the only good emotion. She should know that God is not a husband vending machine, that breaking up isn’t a sin, that the first date isn’t a proposal, all the things we said.
Rebecca: That feeling safe takes precedence over being nice.
Sheila: Yes. So we’ve got two different versions of the She Should Know towels. We have the—all of our Prayer and Tent Pegs. Our Biblical Womanhood merch is available in that too. So all of our Be a Biblical Woman. Love like Ruth. Hope like Anna. Lead like Deborah. Prophesy like Miriam. Believe like Elisabeth. Pray like Hannah. Teach like Priscilla. Convict like Zipporah. Win battles like Jael. Set boundaries like Vashti.
Rebecca: Maybe not exactly like Jael.
Sheila: Yeah. Yeah. So we’ve got that. And then our Prayer and Tent Pegs design as well is in our beach towels. And next month we are going to be releasing a new Biblical Manhood merch to go along with our Live Like an Alan and Do Your Own thing.
Rebecca: And the Biblical Manhood is very fun. I made it.
Sheila: Yeah. We’ll be announcing that next week. But take a look at our limited edition beach towels. All of our designs will still be available in our mugs, in our insulated cups, and all of that, but our beach towels are going away. And when you buy our beach towels, or anything from our store, it helps support our podcast and our blog. So thank you for tuning in to this edition of The Bare Marriage podcast. Next week we’re going to be welcoming a special guest, Wendy Snyder from Fresh Start Families, is going to be here to talk to us about permissive versus authoritarian parenting and what we can do instead of spanking because we’re going to do an amazing workshop with her on September 14 and so some more information about that is coming up. And yeah. Lots more happening. So remember to check out our books, Great Sex Rescue and She Deserves Better and check out our merch in our store. And yeah. Just keep supporting us and keep telling others about the podcast because it helps. It helps us break down some of this really creepy, weird stuff that’s going on in the church and just get back to Jesus and just not be so weird. That shouldn’t be a weird thing to ask.
Rebecca: Yeah. Can we just stop being weird this year? That’s our thing. Can we just stop being so weird? Stop making a big deal whenever there doesn’t need to be a big deal, so we can use our energy to make a big deal when there should be a big deal made.
Sheila: Amen. All right. See you next week. Bye-bye.