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Reflections from Head of School Sophie Glenn Lau ‘88

Sophie Glenn Lau

An excerpt from Sophie Glenn Lau’s back to school letter to families.

I appreciate the more relaxed pace of summer that allows me to get off campus a bit, spend valuable time with family, and catch up on reading (fiction and nonfiction). This July, like many others, I was drawn into the hype surrounding the release of the movie Barbie. As a child of the 1970s, lifelong feminist, and head of a girls’ school, it is fair to say that I have complicated feelings about Barbie the doll and what she represents. I wasn’t quite sure what to think of the media frenzy surrounding the release of the film, not to mention what to make of its opening day coinciding with the first game for the United States in the Women’s World Cup soccer tournament. Nonetheless, on a recent summer evening, I dressed in pink and headed to Showcase Cinemas to see Barbie…and I LOVED it.

So much has been written about the movie and the messages it conveys; as Eliana Dockterman wrote in Time magazine, “If you are wondering whether Barbie is a satire of a toy company’s capitalist ambitions, a searing indictment of the current fraught state of gender relations, a heartwarming if occasionally cliched tribute to girl power, or a musical spectacle…the answer is yes. All of the above…” Is Barbie a feminist icon or a promoter of unhealthy body images? Is the movie a political commentary or simply “fun summer camp?” I don’t have the answers to these questions. I can say that I found it thrilling to see the positive representations of women from a range of ethnicities, races, and body types in Barbieland, holding different jobs and occupations, including a female President and all-female Supreme Court Justices.

In the voiceover at the beginning of the film, narrator Helen Mirren notes that Barbies believe “All problems of feminism and equal rights have been solved.” If only! Barbieland is a make-believe world, to be sure. No one is hoping for women’s feet to be permanently shaped for high heels! For me, though, the film offers a poignant reminder of the imperative of our mission “to educate girls to fearlessly embrace the opportunities and responsibilities of full citizenship in a complex world.” I am proud of the work that we do to empower girls and young women to see themselves as the leaders of tomorrow. We equip our students with the skills they will need to thrive and make a difference in the world.