Image: Tara Winstead


The image of women captured by male logic

Woman's history is the history of her subjugation. The civilizing process that is characterized by dominating, subjugating and transforming everything into merchandise also applies to the woman's body. Barbie as the personification of the female image is part of this process of subjugation of human instincts and passions, which have been disfigured in the history of civilization. Contrary to what advertising seeks to show, Barbie is not the image of women's empowerment, but of their superficiality, their inner emptiness, their alienation and stultification. Barbie is the symbol of the objectification of women.

Human history is the history of man's domination over nature. Reason, logic, science, technique and calculating thinking have always been linked to the image of virility and masculine strength. In turn, the image of women has historically always been linked to the forces of nature. Women have always been linked to seduction, beauty, motherhood and domestic activities. She has always been subjugated as the weaker sex in terms of physical and intellectual power.

As the German philosophers Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer (1985, p. 93) stated “Woman taken individually is, from the social point of view, an exemplar of the species, a representative of her sex and that is why she, insofar as she is entirely captured by male logic, represents nature”.

For civilization to reproduce itself, it requires the subjugation of instincts, passions and desires, as it is based on work, sacrifice and righteousness. The woman, in turn, has always represented oblivion, desire, seduction, pleasure and happiness. It has always been seen as a danger to the civilizing process. In her story she suffered the pressure of society and was reduced to her biological role: “In the cruel subjugation of women was implicit the typical Enlightenment domination of nature. From women, reduced to their biological function, subjectivity was stolen” (Jay, 2008, p. 331).

From the diagnosis above, we can infer that Barbie represents the image of the modern woman captured in her subjectivity by male logic. The image of the white woman, tall, thin, with light eyes, who lives to consume luxury objects, represents the image of the typical middle-class woman brutalized by the idiotic entertainment of the cultural industry. Her desire is always to go to Disney or go shopping in Miami, she is always looking for luxury products and famous brands, she likes expensive restaurants and always wants to change her car for a more powerful and luxurious one. Her purpose in life is to have more money to be able to consume more. The bad thing about all this is that girls from early childhood assimilate a concept of femininity that was built by men.

With the development of the cultural industry, individuals lost their individuality and were homogenized, each one becoming equal to the other. They have become social atoms, desubjectified, fragmented and incapable of understanding the concrete totality that subjugates them. In this sense, the mass media built an image of masculinity and femininity that was culturally assimilated by people. Barbie is the ultimate representation of the idea of ​​femininity.

For Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, femininity is a masculine social construction. In their character and attitudes, women adapt and are shaped by forms of behavior and the impositions of advertising and the cultural industry. Thus, “the feminine character and the ideal of femininity, according to which it is modeled, are products of masculine society” (Adorno, 1993, p. 84).

The representation of women is constructed in a stereotyped way, being portrayed in commercials, soap operas and films as an object of desire. She is treated as a superficial, consumerist being, always concerned with beauty, body and appearance. By being reduced only to the object of desire and sexuality, it is identified with nature, losing its intrinsic value, being objectified and simply subjugated. This stereotyped image may be one of the main reasons for the great violence against women today. For this reason, feminist movements must make it a priority to deconstruct this image that objectifies women, restoring their subjectivity and individuality. So we must say: Out with Barbie, out with Ken, out with the good bourgeois.

*Michel Aires de Souza Dias He holds a PhD in Education from the University of São Paulo (USP).


Adorno, T., & Horkheimer, Max. Dialectic of Enlightenment. Rio de Janeiro: Jorge Zahar, 1985.

Adorno, TW minimum morality. Lisbon: Editions 70, 1993.

Jay, M. The dialectical imagination: history of the Frankfurt School and the Institute for Social Research, 1923-1950. Rio de Janeiro: Counterpoint, 2008.

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