It is literally impossible to be a woman

“You have to be thin, but not too thin. And you can never say you want to be thin. You have to say you want to be healthy, but also you have to be thin… You have to be a boss, but you can't be mean…You’re supposed to love being a mother, but don’t talk about your kids all the damn time…You have to answer for men's bad behavior, which is insane, but if you point that out, you're accused of complaining. You're supposed to stay pretty for men, but not so pretty that you tempt them too much… always stand out and always be grateful…You have to never get old, never be rude, never show off, never be selfish, never fall down, never fail, never show fear, never get out of line.”

This powerful monologue is delivered by Gloria, a character in the blockbuster movie, Barbie. While the movie painted the world pink and became the highest-grossing film of 2023, it also provoked controversy and sparked important conversations about gender stereotypes.


By flipping the script and depicting a tanned and buff Ken as Barbie’s accessory, the movie uses exaggerated gender stereotypes to reinforce its pinpoint social commentary about the impossible expectations and double standards of being a woman. It brings into sharp focus the lived experiences of women and girls whose opportunities and choices have been limited in their workplace, at home and in society for centuries, due to normalised, persistent inequality.


Gender disparities are commonly felt in the workplace, where there are unequal expectations and tasks. Women take minutes, get coffee and tidy up, but men do not. Walking this tightrope is a familiar form of bias that women experience daily. Be too assertive and you are labelled a “bitch”, do your job and you are called “bossy”, express your anger and you are “too emotional”, have a baby and your career commitment is questioned. Would men ever be labelled as such?

This subconscious gender bias is so entrenched in our society that men, and many women, accept these gender roles as a normal way of life. Boys wear blue, girls wear pink. Boys are encouraged to be strong, not cry and take risks, while girls are expected to be polite, passive and submissive.

Girls are raised to be seen and not heard, and are groomed to prioritise marriage over other ambitions. We are subconsciously telling these girls that they are not good enough unless they are attached to a man, and so they aspire for marriage above all else. And when they don’t get married, they feel like they have failed.

As a woman, you are expected to concentrate on your appearance and dress in feminine ways. You are considered the caregiver, burdened with domestic roles where you cook, clean and take care of your husband and home. You also face questions when juggling responsibilities, an interrogation reserved only for women, as men do not get asked the same thing.

These rigid concepts of gender place women and girls in subordinate positions, making them heavily dependent on their partners, families or communities, particularly when it comes to financial resources and decision-making. This dependency disempowers women, making it difficult for them to assert themselves, access resources or opportunities, and gain control over their lives and futures.

Read the full article in our March issue of BizBuzz coming out on the 28th March 2024.