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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Tidd

The Barbie Movie: Why Rhea Perlman’s Line Didn’t Work for Me

Like many people in America, I faithfully bought my ticket to the Barbie movie, sat in a theater with dozens of women dripping in pink, and nodded my head along as America Ferrera exploded in a well-written rant about the unfair and contradictory requirements women face on a daily basis.

I was prepared to like this movie, and I did.

  • Cool sets and fun costumes? Check.

  • Margot Robbie once again being the amazing and versatile actress she is? Check.

  • Ryan Gosling figuring out that he is Kenough? Check.

  • Issa Rae as POTUS? Sign. Me. Up.

It was Rhea Perlman’s line toward the end of the movie that sent a zing of “wait…what did she just say?” through my body and kept me awake that night.

It’s no secret that the movie is about feminism, and I can tell you what this line is without spoiling the rest of the movie if you haven’t seen it.

Here goes:

“We mothers stand still so our daughters can look back and see how far they’ve come.”

The moment she said that the words, “What the f—k?” went through my head.

Here’s why.

I have spent years working through all the crap that most women do, trying to find who I am outside of the person I was dating or married to. I married young, was widowed young, dated after my husband passed, and then decided to learn how to be single.

Wait. Not just single. Single and happy.

Along the way, I realized that I needed to do the same as a mother. I've raised three children entirely on my own and somewhere during the middle school years, I decided that I had better create my own life or I would be pretty unhappy in the future.

As the kids became more independent, so did I.

There was another piece of this as well. I wanted my daughters to see that a woman is more than her role at home. I wanted my son to be comfortable with a strong woman who doesn’t wait around to do what she wants to do – she does it. I wanted them to be assured that I would be okay once they were grown and out of the house because I had intentionally created a life for myself.

I started a business. I wrote a book. I joined women’s networking groups. I started playing golf more. I got a membership to the gym because I like Zumba. I learned how to cook beautiful meals for myself.

In other words…I am not “standing still” as a mother so my kids can look back at me.

Now, I know you might be thinking that I’m being a little nitpicky about this line and I know what the intent behind it was. But I think it could have been said better. I can see how everything I’m doing shapes who my kids will be so that they can take the torch and do even better for their kids. That’s how this parenting thing works.

But again, I am not standing still. I am intentionally creating a life that’s outside my role as a mother. When I look at my future, there’s so much I want to do! I’m not standing here, waving to my kids as they move forward into the future and I fade into the background as a non-entity.

There comes a moment – or there should come a moment – when a parent becomes a person to a child. I’m moving into that territory with my kids now and it’s a magical time. Our relationships are transitioning from a mother who tells them what to do into adult interactions with four independent people.

This line in the movie still casts me in the role of “mother” and not “person” which isn’t helpful. We are more than a benchmark for our children (sons included) so they can see how far they’ve come. Right now many of us are fighting the fight right alongside our kids – not fading into the background to let them do it.

In other words…I’m not standing still. I’m walking with you.
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