2023-24: Good For Dolls, Not Great For Women

Barbie looks happy here, but in real life outrage peaked over the Oscar snubs to the movie's director, Greta Gerwig, and star Margot Robbie.

Obviously, at this fraught time, we have way more serious things to worry about than who didn’t get nominated for an Oscar.

But the idea that Barbie’s director Greta Gerwig and star Margot Robbie were both snubbed -- after creating the highest grossing film of 2023 and the first billion-dollar box office smash directed by a woman -- lit up the internet.

Many saw the action confirming the movie’s view of females never being “Kenough.”

"Wait Ryan Gosling got nominated for his role as Ken, but Margot Robbie didn’t get nominated for Barbie?! And Greta got snubbed for Best Director?!?! Way to justify the literal plot of the movie," wrote a poster on X, summing up the outrage.



Still, the movie got eight nods, including one for America Ferrera, playing a depressed middle-aged working mom trying to connect with her tween daughter. Her speech is the heart of the film: “I’m just so tired of watching myself, and every single other woman, tie herself into knots so that people will like us,” it begins.

At release time, some critics thought her impassioned cry felt dated and overly manipulative. Ha!

 On the whole, 2023 might have been a good year for dolls, but was full of reversals for actual women.

The most life-changing, of course, were the results of overturning Roe v. Wade in June of 2022.

That move re-criminalized abortion after 50 years, punishing young women physically and mentally, no matter what the mitigating circumstances in their individual cases.

The battle for even tighter restrictions looms, although most Americans support reproductive rights.

While the Roe v. Wade reversal produced the most fundamental punch to the female solar plexus by far, we also saw other political, cultural, and employment setbacks.

The COVID pandemic resulted in job losses for women, but a changing economy and the pace of technology, and its resulting bloodbaths, have had dampening effects for years.

When it comes to the ad industry, despite marketing’s move into “storytelling,” the digitization of modern media means that more CMOs are being moved out of corporate C-suites in favor of generalists.

Fortune reports that the waning influence of the CMO is a setback for female professionals, who for the first time in 2022, held 51% of all chief marketing officer jobs, and comprised 70% of new hires.

Regarding unemployment, some six years after being Me-Too-ed, a few men are testing the waters for comebacks and finding them inviting. The New York Times is reporting that former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who resigned after a state investigation found that he had sexually harassed at least 11 women, is polling well, and considering throwing his hat back into the ring.

On MSNBC, “Morning Joe” has quietly brought back Chris Matthews as a political pundit. Earlier this week, he and contributor Mike Barnicle were weighing in on Nikki Haley.  In their mystification, it was as if the two old white dudes were doing their own version of the Muppets’ Statler and Waldorf.

Cluelessly, they talked about how she “just didn’t connect with audiences” and “doesn’t take questions,” when in fact she was out pressing the flesh every single day. Their vibe reminded me of the sometimes-unwitting but-now-clear sexism presidential candidate Hillary Clinton faced every day during her run.

Which brings us to presidential contender Donald J. Trump, whose language and behavior with women could fill up several posts. After winning Iowa, this week he also came out on top of the New Hampshire primary, receiving 55% of the state's vote compared with Nikki Haley's 43%.

And while Haley gave an upbeat, hopeful speech about continuing, something about her respectable showing sent Trump reeling.

As the winner, he issued less of an acceptance speech and more of a list of recriminations against Haley. In so doing, he let loose one of the finest examples of projection he’s ever achieved in one sentence: “I find in life you can’t let people get away with bullshit,” he said.

I can’t argue with that.


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