Beyond Barbie: Illuminating the patriarchy’s unfair standards and emotional weaponisation

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Recently, as the spotlight turned toward the record breaking Barbie film, discussions about the patriarchy’s unrealistic standards and the emotional challenges it imposes on women have gained renewed momentum.

Amid the excitement, it’s crucial to address how deeply ingrained gender biases fail women and perpetuate an unrelenting cycle of emotional weaponisation and injustice.

Unveiling the Patriarchy’s Shackles

The Barbie film has inadvertently thrust the prevailing gender norms into the forefront of public discourse. As it grows in popularity among both women and men, it is a poignant moment to examine how the patriarchal system systematically disadvantages women, setting them up for an ongoing battle against a set of expectations that is inherently skewed.

Within this framework, one of the most insidious tactics employed by the patriarchy is the manipulation of women’s emotions, often in the aftermath of abuse. The concept of “reactive abuse” reveals the dark truth about how women’s emotional responses, borne out of traumatic experiences, can be turned against them. Reactive abuse highlights the harrowing pattern where victims, after being provoked repeatedly, respond in ways that are then used to discredit and marginalise them.

In cases where women confront humiliation by the justice system, their mental wellbeing and emotions are weaponised as tools to undermine their credibility. Survivors who dare to speak up are all too often branded as “unstable” or “hysterical,” an ironic twist that showcases how the very emotions they grapple with are used to erode their standing and dilute the gravity of their experiences. Some women are even diagnosed with personality disorders, therefore having the blame cast once again on them for having gone through trauma.

Time and again, women find their emotions belittled and dismissed in public and private spheres. Take, for instance, the realm of politics, where women’s passion and conviction are frequently mischaracterised as “hysteria.” The deeply ingrained societal notion that emotions equate to weakness perpetuates a narrative that undermines the legitimacy of women’s concerns and perspectives.

In high-stakes professional environments, women who dare to voice dissent are labelled as “difficult” or “emotional,” whereas men displaying assertiveness are often applauded for their leadership. Such instances reveal the pervasive double standard that grants men the freedom to express themselves without facing the same consequences.

The Unlevel Playing Field

The patriarchal system thrives on a web of contradictions, none more glaring than the way emotions are perceived. Men are conditioned to exhibit anger and frustration openly, often without facing severe consequences. Yet, when women express anger, especially in the aftermath of abuse, they are demonised or even cast as femme fatale figures. This stark contrast perpetuates a culture that trivialises women’s feelings and reinforces the dominance of male privilege.

The privileges afforded to men become even more evident when their actions draw stark contrast to the hurdles women face. High-profile cases involving men in positions of power often illustrate this disparity. Instances of men who have escaped accountability for their actions, sometimes even after admitting guilt, underscore the impunity they enjoy. You only have to look at the cases where women are punished harshly, for defending themselves or finally reacting to the abuse they suffered, while the men escape accountability.

Celebrities who commit heinous acts and still retain their public platforms illustrate how deeply the system favours men. Their ability to rebound, often with minimal repercussions, is a stark reminder of the systemic imbalance that perpetuates the patriarchy’s stronghold.

In cases of abuse, the narrative becomes even more distorted, revealing the patriarchy’s twisted priorities. Abusers, often portrayed as charismatic and “cool, calm, and collected,” benefit from the presumption of innocence, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. This portrayal feeds into the misconception that abusive behavior is incompatible with outward appearances, and victims are left grappling with disbelief and isolation.

As legal battles unfold, victims are further disheartened when the cool demeanour of abusers is praised, while their own emotional responses are scrutinised and used against them. The glaring disparity between the public perception of abusers and their victims is a sombre reminder of how deeply entrenched biases can shape perceptions of guilt and innocence.

Imagine a world where women’s anger is neither belittled nor dismissed, where their emotions are valued as legitimate responses to their experiences. Such a vision poses a direct challenge to the patriarchal norms, which thrive on maintaining a power dynamic that subjugates women and suppresses their voices.

Breaking the Chains

The recent focus on the Barbie film serves as a reminder that progress necessitates collective action and a refusal to succumb to antiquated norms. Women must reclaim their emotions, demanding their feelings be acknowledged, empathised with, and recognised as valid. It’s imperative that society acknowledges the authenticity of a woman’s anger, the depth of her pain, and the significance of her lived experiences.

The road to dismantling these gender biases is undoubtedly an uphill battle. It requires a collective effort to challenge societal norms that perpetuate the belittling of women’s emotions and the unchecked privileges bestowed upon men. Society must actively dismantle the preconceived notions that equate femininity with emotional instability while normalising expressions of emotion from all genders.

As we strive for gender equality, it’s imperative to recognise that these biases are not mere anomalies but symptoms of a larger systemic issue. By amplifying the voices of those who have been marginalised, supporting victims, and promoting unbiased standards of accountability, we can slowly chip away at the foundation of the patriarchal structure and build a more just and equitable society for all.

In our collective efforts to dismantle the patriarchal barriers, let us question the status quo, challenge the double standards, and construct an environment where women can express themselves authentically. By doing so, we can unveil the mechanisms that fuel injustice and work toward a future where women stand strong, unburdened by a system that has historically disregarded their needs and aspirations.

Styletto Mag is a Scottish online magazine that publishes the latest articles on fashion, beauty, travel, food and relationships. The site was founded in August 2011. Styletto Mag is a sleek, easy to access online magazine which features shopping trends, beauty reviews, funny features, and women's lifestyle articles. To contribute or submit articles, send them to

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