Ella Gulbrandson is a third-year social work major at Point Loma Nazarene University. While not a member of either PLNU BREAK or the Center for Justice Reconciliation, Gulbrandson often finds herself offering her time and opinions to both groups.
Like many other young women at PLNU, she has grown up in a society where social media and pop culture are becoming increasingly valued. Young adults, specifically young women, are more up-to-date with all things media-related because they have grown up with the world at their fingertips. Today, when something happens in the world of media, the public is alerted instantly. And for Gulbrandson, this is no different.
The Golden Globes award show aired on Jan. 7, 2024. Rather than celebrating the nominees in the opening speech, comedian host Jo Koy poked fun at the Barbie movie. The moment Koy said the movie was just about, “A plastic doll with big boobies” the world was notified.
When Gulbrandson saw the headlines about the Golden Globes, she was surprised – not by the sexist remarks, but by the response to the joke.
“I love that we’re not tolerating this anymore because I think that a few years ago if this happened, I think it would have been tolerated a lot more,” said Gulbrandson.
Amelia Tsering, a third-year political science major with a minor in women’s studies and philosophy, was just one of millions to see this joke-gone-wrong appear on her phone screen.
“Language is powerful, especially with a platform as large as the Golden Globes. The whole point of ‘Barbie’ was that women aren’t just any one thing,” Tsering said. “Barbie is not just a doll with big tits, she can be anything….Belittling feminine figures like that or women, in general, is particularly insidious when thinly veiled as humorous.”
For PLNU BREAK board member Tsering, it is ill-humored attempts at jokes like this that serve as a reminder that women are still facing setbacks and unwarranted jabs that make them feel that they should stay in their place … below men.
And while “Barbie” director Greta Gerwig simply responded to Koy’s opening monologue with, “Well, he’s not wrong,” it dismissed the deeper implications of this film for which some men fail to give it credit.
“For once, there was a film that demonstrated some of the flaws of men in the patriarchy. Ken is not evil, but he is rather simple-minded and selfish,” said Tsering. “Women have been portrayed as much worse images and far more often in media and that is rarely the topic of conversation. The second men get critiqued, there is an uproar. I think it speaks for itself. The movie was about women and even after Ken takes away Barbie’s political autonomy, her house and her life, he is not the one who apologizes, she is.”
Annabelle Young, a third-year media communication and film production major, weighs in on the “Barbie” movie and its lack of success during this year’s award shows. For being one of the most highly anticipated films of the year and earning over 1.3 billion dollars at box offices worldwide, there is a shocking lack of recognition for this movie. It begs the question; is this due to it being created by women?
“The two people who made ‘Barbie’ what it is, Greta Gerwig – writer and director – and Margot Robbie – actress and producer – did not get nominated for an Oscar where Ryan Gosling did,” said Young. “Although others who were in these categories were very deserving, it is painful to see nominations for a movie that did so well in theaters and spoke to many women not honor the two main women in charge.”
Taylor Swift’s song, “The Man,” compares Swift’s characteristics to that of her imaginary male self. As a man, all of the fame, money and talent matched with her dedication and vigor would result in a very respectable, hard-working man. As a woman, Swift sings that she will always be criticized and villainized for these same attributes that would be praised if her gender were different.
“This song is a great example of the ‘double bind’ that women face,” Tsering said. “If you’re too confident, you’re a b*tch. But if you’re too nice, you’re letting people walk all over you. Being a woman in our society means being conditioned to constantly bend over backward for the comfort of others and still feel inadequate and worthy of critique.”
The idea that women have to work harder than men, yet still be palatable, is, unfortunately, very familiar to us. Forbes released a discussion about why society has a hard time taking women seriously in any form of an authoritative role. The idea that women should not be outspoken or assertive comes from deeply ingrained and deeply outdated gender beliefs. So when women defy this expectation and act in a way that society deems more masculine, they are labeled as aggressive and abrasive.
Gulbrandson is a woman who wants to be outspoken about the things that matter to her. She is a woman who wants to be ambitious. She is a woman who also wants to be feminine. With that being said, she often feels that these things about her don’t fit the mold of what society expects a woman to be.
“And so I just, like, face a lot of pushback for just me being who I am,” said Gulbrandson.
Yve Blake, an Australian screenwriter and playwright, created a musical called “Fangirls” in 2019. While researching for this musical, she pulled inspiration from the world-famous boy band One Direction. Despite the band breaking up in 2015, the teenage boys’ legacy continues to grow. Would this fame have been possible without the love and adoration of millions of fans? No.
In her research, she discovered that while this boy band’s main audience was teenage girls, it was also made up of men and women of all different ages, meaning that age and gender aren’t the only qualifications to be considered a crazy fangirl.
Why then, do young women often have this negative view associated with them when it comes to their interests and passions? Does the world hate pop music, or does it hate women?
Gulbrandson is familiar with the association between liking a boy band and the label “crazy fangirl.” Dating back to middle school when she would proudly share that she was a “Directioner,” she soon realized that others could take this interest and weaponize it against her.
“I kind of realized, okay, like, these things that I like and enjoy are looked down upon,” said Gulbrandson.
Outside of just liking One Direction, boy bands or pop music, Tsering agrees that far too many interests that are predominantly held by young women are viewed as hysterical.
“This also reminds me of how rom-coms are rarely seen as award-winning pieces of art or valid movies to be one’s favorite film,” said Tsering. “What about something being liked by women makes the value of it as a ‘serious’ piece of art or media go down?”
Where there is something created for women to enjoy, there is also always something to be criticized.