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America Ferrera responds to critics who say her 'Barbie' speech oversimplifies feminism

"There are a lot of people who need Feminism 101, whole generations of girls ... who don’t have words for the culture that they’re being raised in," Ferrera told The New York Times.
America Ferrera in "Barbie"
America Ferrera in "Barbie."Warner Bros. via YouTube
/ Source: TODAY

America Ferrera is defending her “Barbie” speech against those who say it oversimplifies women’s issues.

In the movie, Ferrera’s character, Gloria, delivers an impassioned monologue to Barbie (Margot Robbie) detailing many of the “impossible” standards women must meet on a daily basis.

“You have to be thin, but not too thin. And you can never say you want to be thin. You have to say you want to be healthy, but also you have to be thin. You have to have money, but you can’t ask for money because that’s crass. You have to be a boss, but you can’t be mean,” Gloria tells Barbie in her nearly three-minute long screed.

“You have to lead, but you can’t squash other people’s ideas. You’re supposed to love being a mother, but don’t talk about your kids all the damn time,” she continues. “You have to be a career woman, but also always be looking out for other people. You have to answer for men’s bad behavior, which is insane, but if you point that out, you’re accused of complaining.”

While the emotional monologue brought many viewers to tears with its power (and angered some conservative critics), others have slammed it for simplifying feminism, a notion Ferrera wholeheartedly rejects.

“We can know things and still need to hear them out loud. It can still be a cathartic,” Ferrera told The New York Times. “There are a lot of people who need Feminism 101, whole generations of girls who are just coming up now and who don’t have words for the culture that they’re being raised in.

“Also, boys and men who may have never spent any time thinking about feminist theory. If you are well-versed in feminism, then it might seem like an oversimplification, but there are entire countries that banned this film for a reason,” she added.

Ferrera also argued that it’s wrong to assume all “Barbie” viewers are already familiar with the basic tenets of feminism.

“To say that something that is maybe foundational, or, in some people’s view, basic feminism isn’t needed is an oversimplification,” she said. “Assuming that everybody is on the same level of knowing and understanding the experience of womanhood is an oversimplification.”

Though Gloria’s long monologue sounds seamless and certain to viewers, the scene was actually shot dozens of times.

The film’s director, Greta Gerwig, who co-wrote the “Barbie” script with Noah Baumbach, allowed Ferrera to tweak Gloria’s speech as she saw fit.

“Greta asked me, ‘Why don’t you just tell me what you would say? Write it in your own words. What would you add?’” Ferrera recalled.

“Some of what we talked about made it into the script. The line, ‘Always be grateful’ came out of that conversation with Greta. She expounded on it adding, ‘But never forget that the system is rigged,’” she added.

Ferrera and Gerwig also repeatedly tweaked the monologue’s tone, shooting it again and again until they agreed on a conclusion.

“We ended in tears. It ended in laughter, it got big, it got small, and I was able to do that because I really trusted Greta to know what would be right for the film,” said Ferrera.

Ferrera’s comments about Gloria’s monologue echo remarks she made last year to Vanity Fair about feeling a “healthy pressure” to deliver the speech perfectly.

“I read the monologue and it hit me as powerful and meaningful,” Ferrera told the publication. “It also felt like, wow, what a gift as an actor to get to deliver something that feels so cathartic and truthful.”