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  • Writer's pictureMichaela Cooper

What Can ‘Barbie’ and Taylor Swift Teach Women About Mental Health?

Updated: Feb 13

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If you weren’t living under a rock the last few months, it was likely impossible to ignore all of the media coverage focused on ‘Barbie’ and Taylor Swift. So many articles have been published praising both for bringing attention to the issues women face in society. Was this the rebirth of feminism society so desperately needed? It sure seemed like it! Millions of people watched as ‘Barbie’ brought the ugly truth about the patriarchal society to light. Even more cheered on Taylor Swift as she proved that a woman can be the most successful and influential person in the world. It seemed as if we were finally trending towards a society that would acknowledge and address the glaringly sexist system and norms that have been in place for centuries. 

Unfortunately, this upward trend didn’t last long. In the last few weeks ‘Barbie’ actress Margot Robbie and songwriter Billie Eilish were both noticeably snubbed by major award shows. The male lead, Ryan Gosling, has been nominated for and unsurprisingly won the very same awards. As someone that has never really paid attention to awards shows this caught my attention. It seemed unbelievably ironic that we are seeing the undeniable sexism that ‘Barbie’ brought to light, play out in real time. 

In other breaking news we’ve seen plenty of “Brads and Chads” discounting Taylor’s success. She has been dragged through the mud and repeatedly blamed for the success or failures of a multibillion-dollar professional sports team. While 2023 and the start of 2024 saw many feminist wins, we’ve seen an equal if not greater amount of losses. So now I’m sure you’re asking: What does this have to do with my mental health? Let’s dive deeper into how feminism and patriarchy directly influence our mental health. 

Impossible Standards

Turning back to the ‘Barbie’ movie, one of the female leads, America Ferrera, delivers a powerful and poignant speech about just how difficult it is to be a woman. The speech starts with “It’s literally impossible to be a woman.” She then points out some of the many contradictions that are expected of women. 

  • You have to be thin, but not too thin.

  • You have to have money but can’t ask for money.

  • You’re supposed to love being a mother but can’t talk about your kids all the time.

  • You have to answer for men's behavior, but if you point that out, you’re complaining.

  • You have to be pretty, but not too pretty.

  • You can never get old.

  • Never be rude.

  • Never show off.

  • Never be selfish.

  • Never fall down.

  • Never fail.

These are all common societal beliefs that women face every day. Looking at Taylor Swift, she has publicly addressed the double standards for women and men and the different vocabulary used to describe each.

  • A man does something and its strategic, a woman does the same thing it’s calculated.

  • A man is allowed to react, a woman can only overreact.

If these are the societal norms, how are women ever supposed to meet them all?!

Society Pressure & Mental Health

Now that we’ve established that it is impossible to be a woman, let's connect that back to mental health. If society is set up for women to fail, it's not surprising that over 27 percent of women struggle with their mental health with only 51 percent of those women receiving treatment. Many

women find themselves constantly held to unrealistic standards and when they don’t meet them, they feel as if they failed.

Women are expected to juggle hundreds of different roles throughout their lives. We strive to be the best we can be at everything. We’re expected to be the perfect wife, the perfect mom, the perfect daughter, the perfect employee. At the end of the day, we can find ourselves giving so much to everyone else we have nothing left to give ourselves. Living in a world that was not designed for you to succeed and forced to prioritize everything else above ourselves can lead to so many negative mental health impacts.

What Can I Do?

There are many things that you do to alleviate the negative effect societal pressures have on your mental health. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Set realistic expectations for yourself: While society may tell you that you need to be perfect at all times, we know that isn’t possible. Set yourself up for success by setting realistic goals and expectations.

  • Take time for yourself: Make sure to make yourself a priority. While trying to be everyone for everyone else remember that you have to show up for yourself first. Remember the cliche “You cannot pour from an empty cup.” Fill your cup first! 

  • Practice Compassion: Give yourself the grace and compassion you would give to others. Speak kindly to yourself. Acknowledge that you are doing the best you can, and that is more than enough. 

  • Understand you are not at fault: It is not your fault that the system is set up the way that it is. You can’t win a game that was set up for you to lose. 

  • Support other women: We are all in this together. Women are strong, capable, smart, passionate, caring, and so much more. We deserve all the support we can get. Support others and create a support network for yourself.

Key Takeaway

If you only take one thing from this article, take this: 

"Feminism isn't about making women stronger. Women are already strong; it's about changing the way the world perceives that strength."

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