I can't believe I'm actually going to comment on the Barbie movie....but here goes.

A couple disclaimers: First, I have not seen the movie and do not intend to any time soon, so this is not an attempt to review the movie. In general, I would refrain from commenting on a movie I have not watched, just like I would not talk about a book I have not read. But in this case, I'm really responding more to other people's reviews and reactions to the movie. Second disclaimer: I have never liked Barbie. We did not let our girls play with Barbie dolls when they were growing up for all the reasons you might imagine. In many ways, I think the Barbie doll concept represents all that is wrong with modern day intersexual dynamics. Barbie, with her idealized figure and proportions, her materialistic accessories, her rejection of marriage and motherhood, her detachment from household and obligation to others, and so forth, has always been a damaging and (frankly) oppressive role model for young girls. Barbie has been a tool of the feminist agenda from the time she was first brought to market. Barbie is a woman without any meaningful connection -- no mother, no father, no husband, no children. She represents the essence of our hyper individualistic, liberal society in which every person is a self-defining, disconnected atom. But those aspects of Barbiedom are not my main concern here. My purpose in this blog post is to make some comments on a few reviews I’ve seen of the movie from conservatives and what I think we can glean from them.

There seem to be two basic reactions to the movie from the conservative side: There are those like Ben Shapiro who trash it as feminist garbage and there are those like Alex Clark and Robin Harris who tout it’s subversively traditionalist message, whatever the intent of its creators might have been. It seems to me the movie is very postmodern, in that it is disjointed enough for viewers to get just about any message out of it they want.

I am obviously not in a position to adjudicate between the conflicting interpretations of the movie. But the one thing everyone agrees on is that the movie casts the patriarchy in a bad light. The patriarchy is the enemy, standing in the way of female happiness. The movie mentions the patriarchy over and over, always in a negative way. For Barbie to attain full self-actualization, the patriarchy must be smashed and (apparently, according to the movie) that has not fully happened yet in our world. In response to this theme in the movie, I want to speak a word of defense on behalf of the patriarchy. But I also want to clarify what patriarchy means because I do not think the term is being used accurately.

In defending the patriarchy against the Barbie movie, I am not defending men today in general. In our culture, there is no shortage of scum bag men doing terrible things, treating women in horrific ways, and so on. Men can be evil, and many men in our society today are very evil indeed. But what men in general do cannot be conflated with the patriarchy.

What is the patriarchy? Why is the patriarchy blamed? What has the patriarchy done to wrong women?

Let’s evaluate this summary of what happens at the movie’s climatic moment from Harris’ review: "Gloria’s speech at the climax of the movie names the impossible position of women under the patriarchy: women must be powerful but also unintimidating, sexy but also serious, intelligent but never critical, an attentive mother but also a powerful career-woman. Society then punishes women for not living up to the standard.”

This is manifestly not what the patriarchy is about. The patriarchy does not put women in this impossible position. The patriarchy actually protects women from this kind of impossible position. Wherever these demands come from, they are not from the patriarchy, they are not from the Christian tradition or the Bible, and they are not from nature. The patriarchy does not punish women for failing to live up this set of standards. In fact, from what I have seen and from what many sociological studies observe, women are far more likely to put each other in this impossible position than men are. Sure, sometimes individual men (husbands, fathers, boyfriends) can put undue and harsh demands on women, but patriarchy as a system does not create the problem the modern woman faces, identified at the heart of the Barbie movie. Women tend to be more critical of each other than men are critical of women. Women are far more likely to attack one another’s life choices (e.g., think of the “mommy wars” in which women criticize one another for choices they make about work/family balance). Women are far more likely to attack the clothing choices and makeup choices of other women than men are. Women are far more likely to "slut shame" one another for being promiscuous than men are. Think of Mencken's old quip: "A misogynist is a man who hates women almost as much as women hate each other." In summary: Women tend to be far harder on one another than men are on women in general. Women tend to put one another in the impossible position of having to manifest contradictory qualities and live out contradictory roles.
This is not to say there is not a "sisterhood" in which women help and support each other; there most certainly is. But it is to say that most of these pressures women feel are not driven by the patriarchy. They are actually driven (ironically) by feminism, which tells women they can (and must!) "have it all." It is not the patriarchy, but feminism, that requires women to play both roles, e.g., the traditional role of mother as well as the modern role of career woman. It is feminism that tells women they must not only be emotionally supportive of their families at home but also economically productive in the working world. I can certainly see why those demands frustrate women. But dismantling the patriarchy will not make those demands go away; indeed, it will only make them worse. The patriarchy actually relieves the woman of certain burdens feminism has placed on her. The patriarchy does not insist that women bring home a paycheck in addition to caring for young children. Rather, the patriarchy puts the burden of provision squarely on the shoulders of the man and thus frees the woman from burdens feminism puts on her.
Is it impossible to be a woman today? Why would women feel this way? I supposed if Barbie is your archetype of womanhood, being a woman will seem impossible. After all, Barbie can be anything -- and always look good doing it. She never ages or gains weight or gets wrinkled. She has literally unlimited career options open to her. She has a cool house and car. That's why Barbie is hated by so many -- she creates an impossible standard that no woman can measure up to. Maybe instead of smashing the patriarchy, women should smash Mattel for creating Barbie. (Note: Barbie was created by a woman who wanted to give young girls something other than baby dolls to play with.) Or maybe they should smash feminism, which provided the real impetus for the Barbie doll in the first place. It's a shame if women feel that impossible standards are being imposed on them today. But if we want to solve the problem, we need to understand where it comes from. The suggestion that most men want a woman who can "do it all" -- who can be a beauty queen and a "boss babe" -- is laughably false. Ironically, studies show that men have more realistic expectations (physical and otherwise) for women than women have for men (e.g., men rate more women as attractive than vice versa). If it's impossible to be a woman today, the patriarchy is not to blame.

So what is the patriarchy, anyway? The word patriarchy simply means “father rule.” If we want to know what the patriarchy does and what it requires of women, we should look at fathers. What do husbands/fathers require of their wives? What do fathers do for their sons and daughters? 
The essence of patriarchy is a man ruling his household in an orderly way (1 Tim. 3:4), with compassion (Psalm 103:13) and love (Ephesians 5:21ff). A patriarch is a head of household, and the duties of a patriarch/head are described in biblical passages like Genesis 18:19. A true patriarch is not going to insist that his wife be an attentive mother and a career woman because, again, the patriarchal system puts the burden of provision on the man. The patriarchy does not demand that women be powerful in the same sense that men are powerful; the patriarchy appreciates femininity. Patriarchs want wives they are sexually attracted to (of course), but they want their women to dress modestly in public; the patriarchy does not pressure women to turn themselves into sex symbols/objects. If anything the patriarchy is considered sexually repressive in a post-sexual revolution culture precisely because the patriarchal system requires strict sexual morality from both sexes.
What does the patriarchy look like in real life? The patriarchy is a man taking on extra hours at work so he can get his kids through college. The patriarchy is a man working two jobs so his wife can stay home with their newborn child. The patriarchy is a father telling his daughter she cannot go out dressed immodestly on a Friday night (how oppressive to keep her from objectifying herself!). The patriarchy is dear old dad taking it upon himself to vet his daughter’s date before prom. The patriarchy is a man getting out of bed in the middle of the night to go check on that noise in the basement. The patriarchy is a man breaking his body to do a difficult and dangerous job he really doesn’t like for forty years so that his family can live in a nice house in a decent neighborhood and take the occasional beach vacation. The patriarchy is 95% of work related deaths happening to men. In short, the patriarchy is about men using their masculine strength, energy, and gifts for the good of their household, for the preservation of their family line. Normal, healthy men actually get a great deal of satisfaction in providing for their families. They embrace the breadwinner and protector roles as badges of manhood. The patriarchy is concerned with the household, with legacy, with honor. The abdicating, absent, or abusive father is not a patriarch worthy of the name — indeed, he is the very opposite of a patriarch. He is not ruling his household. (I agree with Michael Foster  that it is possible to speak of two patriarchies in human history — a faithful patriarchy, patterned after divine fatherhood, and a Satanic patriarchy of evil men. But in another sense, the latter are not really patriarchs in any meaningful way. Satan is only a father in a metaphorical sense. He does not actually create or sire offspring. He does not protect and provide for anyone. He is not paternal. Jesus called the Pharisees sons of the devil but that does not actually make the devil a patriarch. He is actually the anti-patriarch, just as he is the anti-christ. So it is with evil, abusive, and abdicating men. A "baby daddy" who refuses to marry the woman he sleeps with is not building or ruling a household. The lazy or abdicating or abusive man is failing in his fatherly roles and thus, even if he physically sires offspring, he is not an archon.)
What does the attack on patriarchy (whether in our society or in the Barbie movie) mean? What does it mean to take down the patriarchy? The consequence is an attack on fathers and thus the promotion of fatherlessness. It should be no surprise that as feminism has gained influence in our culture, fatherlessness has become more and more the norm. Today, more than 1 in 3 children does not live under the same roof as his dad. But when feminists talk about “smashing the patriarchy” today, they do not usually have fathers consciously in view even though they use a word that invokes fatherhood. Sure, many women have "daddy issues" that make them vulnerable; frustration with many fathers today is fully understandable because many fathers have failed. But those who aim to take the down "the patriarchy"usually have something much larger in view than just abdicating or abusive dads. Most women who complain about the injustices of the patriarchy today are thinking of men who are their peers (not fathers) but have mistreated them because they have used them sexually. Or they are thinking of highly successful men who have filled the top ranking corporate positions that ambitious women want for themselves (the thought that the man might have worked hard to get that job precisely so he could provide for his wife — a woman — does not seem to enter the equation). Patriarchy is viewed as a system that favors and privileges men simply for being men. But there are actually very few privileges men in our society receive simply for being men. Competent, qualified, diligent men will find doors  opening for them. But lower status, lower quality men struggle. (Apparently, the Barbie movie makes this point, as Ken learns in the "real world" that simply being a man does not mean he gets high status positions. He actually has to earn them through credentials and competence, despite being male.) While there is no doubt many social systems throughout history have been unjust towards women, there is nothing intrinsically oppressive for women in the patriarchy — unless we assume that society should be androgynous. It is simply impossible to attack the patriarchy without also (intentionally or not) attacking fatherhood and thus the family. “Patriarchy,” like “racism” or “fascism” has become a fashionable term of derision, used to attack one’s opponents whether the ideological reasons for that attack are well understood or not. “Patriarchy” is a term that gets thrown around without much thought as to what is actually being said and what is actually being attacked. But we need to understand attacks on the patriarchy are inseparable from attacks on marriage, chastity, and family. Without a patriarchy, family life becomes unworkable. The family rises or falls on the backs of its patriarchs.
Think of it this way: What are the least patriarchal places in our society? And what are the most dangerous places for a woman to be in our society? Hollywood is a dangerous place for women; the "#metoo" movement arose out of stories about men abusing and exploiting women in the movie industry. But Hollywood is also a place devoid of patriarchs. Because there are no father-figures, young actresses are left vulnerable. Hollywood is supposed to be an egalitarian/feminist paradise, but instead it's a sexual hellscape. Or think about college campuses. There aren't many patriarchs on college campuses (especially very "woke" campuses), and so not surprisingly, college campuses can be dangerous places for women. We could look at many urban contexts and we'd find the same thing -- the absence of patriarchs spells danger for women. Was a woman safer walking around alone at night in a big American city in 1923, when the patriarchy was still in tact, or in 2023, when the patriarchy is eviscerated? It is not hard to figure out that the patriarchy actually provides safety for women. The collapse of the patriarchy has made our culture more dangerous for women. Ruling fathers are good for us all.
In an egalitarian order, no one takes responsibilities and duties seriously. Men are allowed to "split the bill" with women -- and I don't just mean on dates. Men are allowed to wiggle free of responsibility because it is supposedly shared. But when everyone is equally responsible, no one really has responsibility. And without responsibility, there is no accountability. Patriarchy, by contrast, is hierarchical, to be sure, but for that reason, stresses the mutual responsibilities, duties, and obligations we have towards one another.
This means, as Carrie Gress has suggested, in smashing the patriarchy, women smashed themselves. The feminist movement is the biggest self-own in history. Feminism has made women into their own oppressors. It did not actually liberate woman from anything. But it did "liberate" men to exploit women on a much grander scale. It liberated men from responsibility. It liberated the male sex drive from the discipline and constraints of marriage. If we do want to say that feminism was a woman's liberation movement, we'd have to say it "liberated" women from nature, from their creational design, from their natural use. It liberated them from the love of a husband, the enjoyment of children, and the warmth of a household. The fact that women's well-being and happiness have been declining ever since feminism got mainstreamed a couple generations ago tells us all we need to know. Feminism is contrary to God's created order; because it is unnatural, it can never work in the long run. Sure, the power of the state can artificially impose it on us for a while (feminism and socialism always go together because the state becomes a surrogate husband/father to women), but even then it eventually runs out of steam. Feminism doesn't just kill particular marriages (with promiscuity, no-fault divorce, etc.) and children (by aborting them, neglecting them, etc.); feminism kills whole societies and civilizations. A society built on feminist principles can never survive for long. Contrary to the feminist mantra, "the future is female," feminism destroys the future -- for men, women, and children. It has no way to bind men and women together; no way to bind this generation to the next; no way sustain households that are necessary social and civilizational building blocks. Feminism is genocide -- just look at what it has done to our birth rates and marriage rates. If our culture does not repent of the sin of feminism, it will kill our culture for good. We have to choose: Do we want feminism or do we want a future?
Some think the patriarchy gives men sexual license to do what they want, but actually the exact reverse is the case. In a society that upholds patriarchal norms, there is a huge emphasis on chastity and monogamy (as Christopher Dawson and others have demonstrated). Patriarchs fear cuckoldry so there is a strong desire to keep sex and marriage together. In decent patriarchal societies, men are shamed if they do not protect and provide for the women they marry and the children she bears him. A man who fathers children out of wedlock or who leaves his children fatherless by choice would be scorned in a patriarchy; he would be viewed as effeminate and irresponsible and probably taken out behind the woodshed by other men (if you catch y drift). Patriarchy requires sexual discipline; it is not a surprise that as respect for the patriarchy has waned in Western society, we have seen an explosion in promiscuity, out-of-wedlock births, etc.. Patriarchy requires men to work, to protect, to provide, to sacrifice. Because patriarchy holds marriage and sex together, men must become marriageable in order to get sex; thus, it puts a burden of performance on men and channels male sexual desire in a constructive direction. Under patriarchy, a man's gateway to sex is dominion in the world (dominion = productive labor); thus patriarchy encourages the building and maturation of civilization. Yes, patriarchy gives men a measure of authority in the home, but it also insists they are responsible for heavy burdens. Eliminate a patriarch's honor and authority in the home and it is unfair and unjust to expect him to take responsibility for the home. As a system, patriarchy holds together responsibility and authority. When men have responsibility without authority (as in feminism), men become slaves. When men have authority without responsibility (as in some forms of hyper-patriarchy and chaunvinism), men becomes tyrants. The key is to maintain the delicate balance that tethers responsibility and authority to one another, which a biblically shaped patriarchy does.
Others complain that the patriarchy gives men the right to tyrannize women. But it should be remembered the same apostle who told wives to submit to their husbands in everything also commanded husbands to love their wives as Christ has loved the church. Deferential, chivalrous treatment of women is a fruit of the patriarchal vision of life. In the patriarchy, men know they are the stronger vessel and they know they must treat women with respect and care, befitting their station as the weaker vessel. Again, it is not a surprise that as the patriarchy has declined in the West customary forms of chivalry that elevated and protected women have fallen out of favor. Women are actually treated better in a patriarchal societies, provided it is a true patriarchy. Nancy Pearcey’s recent book on masculinity bears this point out — Christians who uphold traditional and biblical norms for men and women tend to have happier marriages, less domestic violence, fewer divorces, and greater sexual satisfaction. Pearcey says she set out to do her research fully expecting the evidence to show that church-going men who believe they are heads of their households (per biblical teaching) would be more likely to tyrannize their wives and children; the evidence she discovered actually goes the other way. Men who embrace the responsibilities of headship are actually better husbands and fathers and than their counterparts who reject the patriarchal model.
The patriarchy does insist on a sexual division labor, albeit with very fuzzy edges, and many feminists rage against this division of labor. Feminists want women to be freed to do anything men do. (The Barbie doll was created precsiely to prop up this vision of womanhood; Barbie can be anything she wants to be, whether airline pilot or President.) On this issue, there is no question the patriarchalists have nature on their side, while the feminists are simply mad about the way God made the world. Men have sperm, women have wombs. A division of labor is built into our sexual constitution right there. Add in further differences — men have greater musculature, thicker skin, broader shoulders, brains wired for greater objectivity, etc., while women have greater verbal and nurturing capacities, more emotional sensitivity and expressiveness, etc. — and you begin to get the sense that God has actually designed men and women to play complementary (rather than identical or interchangeable) roles in the fulfillment of the creation mandate from Genesis 1.

This is not to say that a patriarchal social system will make every man a good husband/father. Many fathers are bad fathers in every culture that has ever existed. There can be abusive fathers, abdicating fathers, etc. even in the healthiest societies. And to the extent that fathers fail to fulfill their fatherly role, the patriarchy is dismantled. But as J. I. Packer pointed out in his classic Knowing God, we all have an innate sense of what a father should be — and that’s the normative patriarchy. Packer writes 

Who can grasp this? I have heard it seriously argued that the thought of divine fatherhood can mean nothing to those whose human father was inadequate, lacking wisdom, affection, or both, nor to those many more whose misfortune it was to have a fatherless upbringing. I have heard Bishop Robinson's revealing failure to say anything about divine fatherhood in Honest to God defended on these grounds as a brilliant move in commending the faith to a generation in which family life has largely broken down. But this is silly. For, in the first place, it is just not true to suggest that is the realm of personal relations positive concepts cannot be formed by contrast - which is the suggestion implicit here. Many young people get married with a resolve not to make the mess of marriage that they saw their parents make: can this not be a positive ideal? Of course it can. Similarly, the thought of our Maker becoming our perfect parent - faithful in love and care, generous and thoughtful, interested in all we do, respecting our individuality, skilful in training us, wise in guidance, always available, helping us to find ourselves in maturity, integrity, and uprightness - is a thought which can have meaning for everybody, whether we come to it by saying, 'I had a wonderful father, and I see that God is like that, only more so,' or by saying, "My father disappointed me here, and here, and here, but God, praise His name, will be very different, or even by saying, 'I have never known what it 1s to have a father on earth, but thank God I now have one in heaven. The truth is that all of us have a positive ideal of fatherhood by which we judge our own and others' fathers, and it can safely be said that the person for whom the thought of God's perfect fatherhood is meaningless or repellent does not exist.

To paraphrase: We all know what the patriarchy is, even if we twist and suppress that truth in rebellion against our Heavenly Patriarch. We all know what a ruling father should be like. Packer summarizes the Christian experience of the gospel of grace by pointing to adoption by the Father as the summum bonum of the believer’s life:

You sum up the whole of New Testament religion if you describe it as the knowledge of God as one’s holy Father. If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all.
For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new, and better than the Old, everything that is distinctively Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God. ‘Father’ is the Christian name for God. Our understanding of Christianity cannot be better than our grasp of adoption.”     
The patriarchy derives from the fatherhood of God and is patterned after God’s own fatherhood (Eph. 3:15). God made human patriarchs to image his own archetypical patriarchy. 

All that to say: The impossible position many women find themselves in (and lamented in the Barbie movie) is not due to the patriarchy but due to its abandonment in the sexual revolution. It is due to the rise of feminism and the subsequent loss of relatively clearly defined life scripts for men and women. An age that pushes androgyny, forcing women to do what women have traditionally been expected to do, and also what men have been have been expected to do, is obviously going to wear women down. If women are required to care for the children and the house plus be economically productive all the while, that's a lot to ask. It’s no wonder women feel exhausted — they’re being asked to play the roles of both sexes at the same time. And that simply isn’t possible. But note again: It is not the patriarchy that put these double demands on women. Patriarchy is happy for the woman to play the woman’s role, and no more. Patriarchy has far more reasonable and humane expectations for women than feminism. If anything, the culprit behind modern woman's high stress is feminism which told her she can not only "have it all" but must try to "do it all." A return to patriarchal order would be very freeing for modern women. To be blunt: It is easier for women to be women -- to be themselves -- under a patriarchal order than a feminist one. And if the evidence is to be believed, women are happier living under patriarchy than under feminism. It is feminists, not patriarchalists, who actually despise womanhood and femininity. Women benefit from living inside the frame of a masculine, competent, godly man who takes responsibility for her.
Women’s own choices factor into their experience of being put in an impossible position. More than once I have heard a working mom with young children complain about the demands of her daily routine. She has to divide time, energy, and loyalty between her boss and her children. These were not cases where mom took a job outside the home as a financial necessity to prevent starvation. It was a choice — maybe a thoughtless choice, but a choice nonetheless. It was a choice driven perhaps by a desire for more and better of everything since contemporary logic says two incomes are better than one (the secularized, consumeristic version of the American dream). Or a choice driven by cultural expectations pushed on women by the various waves of feminism that have washed over us (everyone else is doing it, so why not us?). But when I hear these women complain about trying to juggle mothering young children and a 9-to-5 job, my first thought is, “You did this to yourself. Why? No one put a gun to your head and said you have to pursue a career while also undertaking the most difficult, demanding job in the world — that of caring for the bodies and shaping the souls of infant and young image bearers. Why did you make the choice you made, especially if you don’t like where it has left you?” When modern women feel guilty for the ways they have neglected their children for the sake of a job, the guilt cannot be dismissed as a cultural construct. The guilt arises because a form of life contrary to nature, contrary to our creational design, contrary to God's commands (e.g, Titus 2:3-5) has been chosen, and such choices always have steep costs. We often talk about how costly it is to obey God -- and it often does cost us, in the sense that we cannot do what we want all the time. But disobeying God's design has costs too -- and in those cases, the costs not only land on the anxious, stressed mother who has sacrificed peace of mind for a paycheck, but also land on her children, who did not get to have the relationship with their mother in the early years of life they were made to enjoy.
I realize this is not the experience of all working moms. Some moms are all too happy to drop off their newborns at daycare. Perhaps they ignore all the data we have amassed that says mommy care is much better than daycare (see Erica Komisar's book Being There). Outsourcing the care of your  tender offspring — who, by the way, are going to live eternally either in heavenly bliss or the tortuous lake of fire — to a minimum wage worker in an overcrowded toddler compound is a decision some women make without hesitation. But in that case, I think we have to be willing to admit that something deeply unnatural is happening. Mothers are supposed to be bonded to their children — and God normally provides all the necessary hormones to make this happen without some special effort. Mothers are supposed to want to be with their children the same way those children want to be with them. But today, we have a generation of people who are more alienated from nature — from God’s creational design — than any in recent history. Transgenders are not the only ones experiencing a form of gender dysphoria today. We also see a form of "maternal dysphoria" — mothers who essentially reject the meaning of motherhood, even though it is very obviously inscribed in their bodies. These mothers are as uncomfortable with the maternal design of their bodies and the domestic, nurturing calling their bodies impose on them, as transgenders are uncomfortable with their biological sex more generally considered. These mothers might have children they love but they reject the work of motherhood, hiring out a surrogate caretaker to take their place much of the time. But this is just as problematic as fathers who neglect or abandon their children. Want to be a good mother? Like any job, the first requirement is that you show up. So many mothers have abandoned the day to day care of their children that we have a rising generation suffering from "mother hunger" just as much as "father hunger." Today, we not only have a crisis of manhood/masculinity/fatherhood; we also have a crisis of womanhood/femininity/motherhood.
From what I understand, early on in the Barbie movie, little girls are destroying baby dolls so they can play with Barbie dolls instead. The abortion imagery cannot be missed. But the anti-motherhood message is there too. This is the essence of feminism: "liberating" woman from the shackles of motherhood is the key to her fulfillment. Fertility is a curse. Children are a burden. Marriage is oppressive. The workplace is dignifying. This is the heart of the feminist project: Nature is overridden by choice and technology. The woman must not be bound by nature or by relational obligations. She must be free to "be whatever she wants to be," to define herself and create her own identity. She will no longer be the second sex, living in a male-centric world. She will prove she can do whatever the men are doing.

Some claim the Barbie movie is pushing a vision of mutuality between the sexes. If so, not everyone got the message. Shapiro says, “The basic sort of premise of the film, politically speaking, is that men and women are on two sides of the divide, and they hate each other….literally, the only way you can have a happy world is if the women ignore the men and the men ignore the women. That seems to be the final outcome of this film.” But other reviewers came away with exactly the opposite message. Since I have not seen it, I cannot weigh in with my opinion here. But let’s grant the movie the benefit of the doubt for a moment.

If the message of the Barbie movie is about the mutuality of the sexes, that’s wonderful. We need more of that. Men and women really do need each other (1 Cor. 11:8-12). Some have suggested the point of the movie is to show that both patriarchy and matriarchy are bad and what really need is equality. In other words, the point is that female-dominated societies (like Barbie-land) and male-dominated socieities (supposedly like our world) are both flawed. But this version of equality will lead right back to the same dead end we have already run into in our society. Equality is good and necessary if we are talking about equality before the law. But in real life, in day to day life, equality is rarely a helpful concept. In real life, notions of equality have killed many marriages. In real life, an obsession with equality leads to frustration, entitlement, victimhood, and discontentment. What we need guiding gender relations is not equality but reality. And the reality is that men and women are different. We will never be equal in the sense of being interchangeable -- and attempts to make men and women interchangeable (basically creating an androgynous society) always result in oppression. Focusing on reality allows us to embrace the divine design for each sex. The "deal" reality makes with men and women is that the woman bears children while the man protects and provides for the household. Anything that tries to undo that deal in the name of equality is going to crash into reality and result in misery.
There are other ways that equality, the way most Americans today conceive of it, undermines happiness. What does equality mean in marriage when one spouse gets cancer? What does equality mean in family life when one child/sibling has mental or physical disabilities? There is a reason why the traditional (Christian) wedding vows promise "for better, for worse" and say nothing about equality. What would it even mean to promise to treat a spouse with equality? The concept is basically meaningless because life and relationships simply don't work that way. I would not tell spouses to focus on making things "equal" (who is going to adjudicate what equality is in a marriage?) but to instead focus on their God-assigned duties as husband and as wife. A marriage does not thrive by conforming to a standard of equality, but by each spouse conforming to the standard of God's Word.
All that being said, we do need a recovery of the mutuality and inter-dependence of the sexes. The war of the sexes is a war no one can win. The sexes either win together — because they learn how to cooperate and complement one another — or they lose together. But we will not get sexual mutuality by attacking the patriarchy (“father rule”) or by striving for feminist-style equality of the sexes (meaning, e.g., half of all jobs are occupied by each sex). We will not get mutuality by combining or splitting the difference between a matriarchal world (like the one toy Barbie lives in) with the patriarchal world. We will not get mutuality if we try to force women into roles suited for men while taking them away from the roles they are best suited for. We will not get mutuality if we brand all expressions of masculinity in men as toxic. (Does anyone else find it odd that the very qualities that get branded as toxic in men are now celebrated in women? We masculinize women at the same time that we feminize men.)
In truth, the way to create mutuality between the sexes is to (a) celebrate the diversity of the sexes and (b) honor the institution of marriage. These two go together because strong sexual polarity is the glue that binds men and women together in the covenant of marriage. If the Barbie movie really wanted to promote mutuality, it should have ended with a wedding. Alas, I hear it ends with a visit to the gynecologist's office. That’s not exactly the happy ending we all crave in our heart of hearts. “I’m here to see my gynecologist” does not have quite the same ring as “and they lived happily after.” Think of that fairy tale ending. What does it mean to say “and they lived happily ever after”? Who is the “they"? Obviously, it's the man, his wife, and then the children they have together. There’s no way to get that happy ending without the formation of a family. A story that does not end with wedding bells falls short of the satisfying conclusion we were made for. A Barbie who never gets to wear a wedding dress and walk down the aisle is not a Barbie who is going to experience the deepest and fullest form of sexual mutuality this life has to offer. This is the lesson we find at the end of the Bible, where the Apostle John sees “the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, as a bride adorned for her husband.” The Bible ends with wedding bells for a reason — we were made for marital oneness. The ultimate meaning of history is found in marriage -- the marriage of Christ and his church. The only way to overcome misandry and misogyny is for man and woman to become one flesh in the covenant of marriage, "for no one ever hated his own flesh but nourishes and cherishes it" (Eph. 5:31).
If we want Ken and Barbie to get together forever, we have long ways to go in our society today. Right now, Ken and Barbie are very much at odds. Mattel may have designed Barbie to never get married and become a mother (it seems that Barbie can be anything but a mom). Mattel may have designed Ken as a mere accessory to Barbie’s “strong, independent woman” lifestyle (note that in Barbie-land, the biblical order is reversed: the woman is made before the man, and the man is made for the sake of the woman). In the movie, the goal is not for Ken and Barbie to find each other but for them to find themselves; the narrative of self-discovery, self-actualization, and self-expression has replaced the narrative of romantic love, culminating in marriage. The Barbie movie has replaced the classic story arc in which the woman finally falls into the arms of her man and finds completion; instead, Barbie, as the archetype of the modern, "liberated" woman will find herself independently of man.
But that’s not the way God designed real life Barbies and Kens to live. If most real life women — and men — want to find fulfillment, we are going to have to figure out how to make marriage and family life work. We cannot look within; we must look outside ourselves. We cannot curve in on ourselves; we must bond with others and form communities, the most intense and intimate of which is marriage. Men are going to have become patriarchs, mustering all their masculine strength for the good of their households. And women are going to have to be willing to embrace domesticity as central to (though not necessarily exhaustive of) their femininity. Men build civilization; women nurture children. Masculine energy is designed to protect and provide; feminine energy is made to help and nurture. That's the deal. That's the division of labor that serves both the survival and flourishing of the human race. While some conservatives might put a positive spin on the movie, and I do not doubt it has some very positive features, I have not seen anything that suggests it can actually help us find that happy ending.