Barbie, Patriarchy and My Pink Hijab

Lydia Rose, Ph.D., an associate professor of sociology at Kent State, shares her perspectives on the resurgence of Barbie’s influence on our culture today

I was excited to go see the new Barbie movie on opening night a few weeks ago. I prepared my clothes in advance, selecting my most pink clothes, and well as searched through my bin of scarves for my pink hijab.

Kent State assistant professor Lydia Rose, Ph.D.
Lydia Rose, Ph.D., is director of Public Relations for the Islamic Society of Akron and Kent and an associate professor of sociology at Kent State University.

Growing up, Barbie served as a super woman, a working mom for all my dolls. She got dressed in high fashion, drove a plane or the camper around the backyard, and then came back to our playhouse to put all the baby dolls to bed. In my teen years, I would go through my mom’s material scraps box to design and sew Barbie dresses to sell on the weekends to fund my outings. Then as a mom myself, I watched my daughter and my nieces play with their Barbie dolls and watched them view Barbie movies over and over.

For me, Barbie is an icon of girlhood, adolescence and womanhood. The thrill of seeing a sea of pink in the theater to support Barbie for her entrance into the real world was almost as exciting as when I stepped onto the train heading to Washington, D.C., for the 2017 Women’s March.

Like at the march, I didn’t know if I was going to be one of a few people wearing pink or not. The 2017 march ended up being a worldwide event. In going to the Barbie movie, I had no expectations other than to cheer for Barbie.

I did not know that the movie would be bearing witness to the divisiveness and hypocrisy of patriarchy and capitalism in our daily lives and the struggles we all have (men and women) when issues of diversity, equity, inclusion and tolerance are ignored and disregarded.

This movie had me thinking of the diversity that God gave us when he created Adam (PBUH) and Eve (In Arabic her name is Hawah). My favorite Islamic Scholar on this topic is Aisha Stacey.

She wrote: “God created Adam from a variety of different kinds of soil found on Earth. Angels were sent to Earth to collect the soil that was to become Adam. The soil was red, white, brown, and black; it was soft and malleable, hard and gritty; it came from the mountains and the valleys; from infertile deserts and lush fertile plains and all the natural varieties in between. With this beginning, the descendants of Adam are destined to be as diverse as the handful of soil from which their ancestor was created; all have different appearances, attributes and qualities.”

The struggle to find our place in this world is about embracing that diversity that was our beginning and building our connection with God. The Barbie movie showed us this struggle (for both men and women) when there are so many contradictions in daily life. In Islam, we have the Five Pillars (proclaim our faith, prayers, giving to charity, abstaining from food and water, and taking a pilgrimage) to help guide us in this struggle and help build our connection with God.

As we build our connection with God, we can be resilient to work to make our homes, workplace and society a better place. We can sort out the cultural practices that need to change, that have negative impacts on women and men be it from patriarchy and capitalism, or just bad habits. Let’s build a dream world for all.

This article first appeared in the Record-Courier on Aug. 18, 2023. It has been shared with permission from Lydia Rose, Ph.D. See the original post here.

POSTED: Thursday, August 24, 2023 05:25 PM
Updated: Friday, August 25, 2023 04:07 PM
Lydia Rose, Ph.D.