Woke feminism or progress?

Published 12:10 pm Monday, August 28, 2023

By Susan Mah

Feminist (noun): an advocate for womens rights on the basis of equality of the sexes

Woke (adjective): aware of and actively attentive to important social facts and issues

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Both of these terms have fallen victim to American culture wars, yet they aptly describe Lessons in Chemistry,a novel by Bonnie Garmus, and Barbie,the smash box office hit directed by Greta Gerwig, starring Margot Robbie as Stereotypical Barbie.

While the novel focuses on the life of Elizabeth Zott, a young chemist whose career is thwarted by a male colleague taking credit for her work, the movie focuses on Stereotypical Barbie who not only looks perfect, but also has a perfect life, surrounded by other smart, independent and beautiful Barbies in Barbie Land.

While Elizabeth Zott deals with the tragedies of the real world as a victim of sexual assault and discrimination on the basis of her gender, Stereotypical Barbie wakes up every day in a world run by a cohesive collective of Barbies who support one another in the day and party together at night.

In the novel, Elizabeth must navigate dystopian realities, yet Stereotypical Barbie literally floats through her utopian worldthat is, until her feet go flat after having thoughts about death. It is only at this point wherein Barbie learns about the real world and is shocked and saddened to realize how women are often treated as objects rather than subjects.

In order to overcome the barriers put before her, Elizabeth must take on a new, seemingly more traditional role, teaching women how to cook for their families. Barbie, on the other hand, lets go of her stereotypical role as she becomes woke with an awareness of and active attention to important societal facts and issues.

In their own unique ways, both heroines are indeed feminists, advocating for womens rights on the basis of equality of the sexes. Both are wonderful role models for girls and women alike, inspiring us look inward and consider…… Maybe, just maybe, I can do more or be more than I thought I could.

As a Gen-Xer myself, I often say that tasks around the house, like taking out the trash or problem-solving electronics, are boy jobsor, as a Boomer friend of mine says, dude stuff.However, the day after I finished reading Lessons in Chemistry,I was inspired to hook up a Fire Stick to my TV and did! And after seeing Barbietwice, I went out and bought a chainsaw and actually cut down small trees in my yard!

OMG! The next thing you know Ill be cutting my own lawn……

But on second thought, thats a boy job.