Barbie and the Wild Woman Archetype, Interview with Vanessa Sage, part 1

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Quote from the interview with Beth Barany and Vanessa Sage - Barbie and the Wild Woman Archetype


Barbie and the Wild Woman Archetype, Interview with Vanessa Sage – How To Write the Future podcast, episode 80

“It’s easy to be dismissed as a woman, but then it’s also easy to be dismissed for being a challenging and a strong woman.” – Vanessa Sage

In this exciting first episode of a two-part interview on How To Write the Future, host Beth Barany talks with trained mindfulness-based coach, teacher, writer, and conscious leadership and business mentor, Vanessa Sage about Barbie the movie, the wild woman archetype, and the challenges of the modern era. 

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About the How To Write the Future podcast 

The *How To Write The Future* podcast is for science fiction and fantasy writers who want to write positive futures and successfully bring those stories out into the marketplace. Hosted by Beth Barany, science fiction novelist and creativity coach for writers. We cover tips for fiction writers. This podcast is for readers too if you’re at all curious about the future of humanity.

This podcast is for you if you have questions like:

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This podcast is for readers too if you’re at all curious about the future of humanity.

ABOUT Vanessa Sage 

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Vanessa Sage, Ph.D., is a Cultural Anthropologist with a doctorate from McMaster University. She is a trained mindfulness-based coach, teacher, writer, and conscious leadership and business mentor. Vanessa combines a strong critical mind with a childlike sense of wonder to seek to understand multiple perspectives and remain hopeful in a challenging world. Resilient, determined, and with an incredible ability to step out of her comfort zones, Vanessa is carving a new path for others to feel at ease in their own skins, find joy in the everyday, and live a life of peace and purpose.


Transcript for episode 80 – Interview with Vanessa Sage, Wild Woman Archetype

Hey everyone. Beth Barany here. Welcome back to How to Write the Future podcast. 

This is a podcast where we help fiction writers. And futurists and anyone who cares about creating new visions of the future, we help you create positive, optimistic visions because I believe that what we vision, we help make it so.

Today, I’m very excited to present a guest interview with Vanessa Sage, PhD.

Vanessa Sage, PhD. I have met Vanessa years ago in some fabulous networking group. I was in, and I wanna share with you who is Vanessa.

About Vanessa Sage

Vanessa Sage, PhD is a cultural anthropologist with a doctorate from McMaster University.

She’s a trained mindfulness-based coach, teacher writer, and conscious leadership and business mentor. Vanessa combines a strong critical mind with a childlike sense of wonder to seek to understand multiple perspectives and remain hopeful in a challenging world. Resilient, determined, and with an incredible ability to step out of her comfort zones, Vanessa is carving a new path for others to feel at ease in their skins, find joy in the everyday and live a life of peace and purpose.

Oh my gosh, Vanessa, I just love your bio.

Wow. I’m so excited.

Everyone please meet Vanessa Sage.

Vanessa, welcome. Thank you so much for being here and agreeing to have a conversation with me.

I’m so grateful.


Oh, I’m so, so happy to be here. You’re the first person to read my new bio actually. So it’s feels very special to hear it. And definitely a hard one


Yeah, hard one. I laugh everyone. Yeah. Tell me about that. What do you mean hard won? Say little more.


Well, I hear some of what I had written about myself and before we came on, we were talking about the creating new futures for yourself, and part of that is, is stating out loud what the vision is, and while also acknowledging some of the challenges in the past.

And, know where I’ve been and the resilience it has taken to still be smiling and laughing here with you today. And yeah, it just, it’s kind of what I was Yeah. Reflecting on. Yeah.


Yeah. Oh, that is so beautiful, and I feel like your example is calling me to try that. I feel like my bio is so outer-facing.

There is some of my humor and. Other things, but it’s like, oh, I wanna try that. I wanna try writing a bio that is stating really the forward-facing perspective that I have and acknowledging the challenges of the past. I think that’s such a beautiful exercise. I teach novelists how to write their author bio and it’s like, wow, how could I, how can we incorporate that awareness in our author bio and also your bio. And I have a professional bio too, like how can I have my professional bio reflect this new stance that I’m stepping into as well. It’s such a invitation, so thank you. It’s just a great lesson right there. So thank you so much.


Yeah, I know. I’m in the right place.

We’re already geeking out about writing our bios. I know,


Totally. I have a master document that’s just called Bio and every time I pitch to be a speaker or a podcast guest or teacher. I have this great compendium of bios I’ve been writing for, maybe it’s about two or three or four years old, and I’ll just put in the new bio and I have different lengths, the short version, the long version, the super long version.

And of course, I customize it for every single pitch because I want it to be fresh. I want it to be present time. I want it to be thinking of the audience that I’m talking to. Mm-Hmm. So it’s just, yeah, I totally geek out about the bio. Yeah. Great.

Well, I know I was initially inspired to reach out to you to have an interview because of your talk in your newsletter about the Wild Woman archetype, Also, I have to throw in Barbie because I read your analysis of Barbie. There were no spoilers in it, but it was the first thing I had read about the movie. ’cause I had been staying away from all the sneak peeks and everything that encouraged me to go, because before I just saw people dressed up in pink, standing outside of the theater and I’m like, whatever. 

I didn’t play with dolls. I never had a Barbie as far as I remember. What’s the big deal? 

And then your presentation, your discussion, and your rave review of the movie.

So I don’t know if Barbie really relates to wild woman archetype. I feel like there’s something happening in the zeitgeist, in the culture, and I care very much about this topic because I write my novels are all with strong female protagonists, and that’s what I care to, to be oriented toward for many, many years now. So,  your turn, lots of things to talk about.


Yeah. Thank you so much, and thank you for your response to that. And you know that newsletter’s now out on my blog so anyone can read it now. And I wrote that it was a response to Sinead O’Connor’s passing to the Barbie movie, also Mary Magdalene.

It was around Mary Magdalene’s Feast Day, but then also a kind of new coming out of myself, a kind of, I, I started it off by talking about how I’d always been the Smile, pretty good girl, and how in my experience of being a woman for myself, how I had kind of suppressed the wildness within me, the punk within me, the controversial thoughts, the controversial things that I wanna say, and in a sense abandoned myself.

And that we live in a world where we both celebrate the wild woman archetype, but we’re also clamping down on people like the callout culture and the cancel culture, all that kinda stuff where there’s almost like, it’s almost so difficult to get the words out because you’re afraid you’re gonna say something wrong.

And it was also a kind of piece where I related to Barbie. In a way. Because Barbie at the, this is really all I say in the blog and it’s so–the movie has been out for so long. I think we can handle some spoilers. Mm-Hmm. Barbie basically has an existential crisis and leaves everything that she knew and everything that she thought about herself and the ways in which she had been this kind of smile, pretty good girl in order to go out into the real world and be confronted with that and find out who she really was. And I related to that because it’s been kind of my story Mm-Hmm. Over the last few years. Mm-Hmm. And so, yeah, it just kind of poured out of me. It’s one of those moments when in a, as a, in a writer’s life where it just.

You know those special moments. Yeah. Yeah. You can’t necessarily recreate every single day, but it Mm-Hmm. It felt like that. Mm-Hmm. So, yeah, it was, it was kind of addressing a lot of different things and at a kind of cultural moment that felt relevant as well. Mm-Hmm. With Sinead O’Connor’s passing and also the bargaining feet.

Mm-Hmm. Kind of both juxtaposed. And it was very conscious of the fact that Sinead O’Connor. I would’ve hated the Barbie movie. You know, so it’s kind of a commentary on, the range of controversy and how much can we hold, can we hold a range of perspectives Mm-Hmm. As well, which I’m very interested in.


Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s the challenge of our Modern era when we have access to so much information, so many different kinds of stories, and yet people seem to act as if there’s only one or two kinds of stories. You’ve been abroad. I’ve lived abroad. It’s like there are so many stories.

Why do people act? Especially I see it here in the US since I’m a US citizen, they act as if their story, and maybe they don’t know other stories, but as if it’s, the truth. And I’ve known since I was a teenager and I was a little Jewish girl going to a Catholic school. Yeah. I knew there was more than just even those two religions already.

I already knew of the five major religions. And here was someone telling me this is the one truth. And I’m like, excuse me. Ad teenagers do. Excuse me. So same with stories, same with being a woman. I have been confronted. In a science fiction and fantasy con, a conference, a con, where people are telling me, well, women should be this and women should be that.

And I’m like, raising my hand. I’m in the audience. I’m like, excuse me. Every single woman gets to define that for themselves. Who and you, Mr. Man, who are you to tell me what is a woman? And I feel like we’re circling around that conversation like there’s so many different archetypes of being a woman.

There’s the wild woman, there’s the punk, there’s the rebel, right? There’s the mother, there’s the one on the fringe who’s saying the truth. I don’t know Sinead O’Connor’s story deeply, but I feel like she was out there on the edge pointing outward, saying other possibilities, and then pointing inward, saying, what the hell, man?

Totally just calling everyone out and I feel like why are, I understand there’s historical reasons why Barbie was considered the ideal, and I never got it because I never, ever looked like that, acted like that, cared about those things. Anyway, I am just a little bit reeling with all these different ways of being in the world and we all have an opportunity to explore different ways of being and isn’t that great? I think that’s incredible that we can do that in this day and age.


Yeah, I think it really is. I don’t know about you, but for me it’s taken a lot of inner strength to really root in and. be confident in who I am and while allowing for multiple perspectives.

I’m a cultural anthropologist, so I am literally trained to seek to understand another’s perspective and not to put my own perspective on them. That’s called ethnocentrism. 

So I’ve been trained as a cultural relativist where we really truly must listen. We must understand someone’s point of view from their own worldview, from their own, from their perspective.

So to navigate in that way, but then also be very clearer in my own voice to be very clear in who I am. I’m also queer. If someone shouts at me on the street calling me names, maybe I can understand that, but I also don’t have to take it, I also don’t have to take that into myself and say, oh, you must be right.

I’ll just take that discrimination into myself and believe it, So. it’s this kind of surfing, you know, surfing our realities a little bit, but staying clear and strong.


Yeah. So we don’t drown. Yeah. Yeah. So it’s a metaphor to this, right? go all the way to the edge.

Yeah. how can we have compassion for the other points of view, but not believe them or buy into them? And you’re right, I think it takes a great fortitude. I think as a child I was very unconsciously confident, but as I became a teenager, I was very withdrawn and shy and probably super sensitive to everybody’s perspectives on me.

To develop as an artist over the last, it’s hard to say how many years, a good 25 years, focusing on learning how to be a fiction writer and coming out in that way, it was hard. It was very hard. Especially with my first novel. I remember how scared I was to release that into the world and I admit I understand intellectually why people would say, clamp down on the way women should be in the world. It’s a long, long, long millennia, double, millennia, triple, millennia, long history of controlling women so that the wildness in us doesn’t, I don’t know, offend their sense of order.

I don’t know. I mean, I’ve actually been on a hunt for many years now to try and understand what happened to humanity that we would go from a lot of, there’s a lot of ancient egalitarian societies where all the jobs were split evenly, including hunting. 

50% of women now they have come to realize were hunters.

And I definitely feel like I would’ve been one of those hunters. So what happened to go from an egalitarian type societies’ cultures to this whole male dominant – female subservience because of the power of women, you know? And so I grew up in a feminist family with a long tradition of feminism

But going back several generations, but I don’t, yeah, I’ve never understood this.

I actually was turned to my mother at 16 years old. I’m like, mom, how come there isn’t equality, between men and women? Mm-Hmm. I thought there was. I grew up in this household where feminism was held up and discussed and women had roles and voices. And it wasn’t perfect.

But yeah. So I’m still struggling with that. And as we come back to the wild woman archetype, yeah, wild, wild. Why? Why can’t we be wild? Why not?

We are wild already. We can claim that if we want, if that’s important to us.

So anyway, those are some thoughts that I’m ruminating on and, yeah, I’d love to know your perspective because of your background. 


Yeah, absolutely.


Because of your cultural anthropology background and all of your studies and diving deep into the mysteries. Yeah. I’m curious what you can share on that.


Well, first of all, I also grew up with a feminist mother. Feminism wasn’t even a choice in my life. I think that that was a real gift because, even if you do go out into the world and you’re confronted with what is going on. There is a felt sense within your body that there’s something wrong, there’s something wrong out going on. It’s not me. The question of women’s subordination is a massive one and an important one, and I think it’s multi-leveled one is mythic.

One is the imagination. And I think with your interest in telling positive stories of the future and imagining the future to understand as well that our present has been imagined, right?

And that there’s an unhooking of past imaginations that needs to be done right. So when mythically war becomes valorized and the goddess becomes suppressed, for example, dragons, whenever you see a dragon being slayed, that’s the goddess being slayed mythically, right?

Lilith is connected with the dragon. It’s fascinating when you start diving into, that’s why I think the ancient myth in the ancient past is so relevant in the present because we do need to understand where some of our inherent assumptions come from. 

We’re born into the world, children ready to learn. What are we learning? What are we teaching our children? And this is why it’s so important that we tell different stories and we have new, hopeful Imaginations because you know, as I was listening to some of your past podcasts, it is important that we tell a new story because we do create that future when we do it.

So we want a more egalitarian world. We have to include that in our stories in all ways, right? And we love stories. We’re still really just sitting around the fire listening to stories. You know, it is, this is why we watch Netflix. it’s why the movies movie industry is so big. So, you know, to get those kinds of stories out into the world, out into the culture, it’s important.

And when you do that, you’re contributing to a better world. Mm-Hmm mm-Hmm. Yeah. You know, I think you can go back even mythically and say, okay, well maybe, maybe this dragon’s not gonna get slayed. You know, like just as that one example. 

What does that look like? Mm-Hmm. Rewrite it. We can’t change the past, but we can revise the present and the future.



Yeah, absolutely. I love that.

And I don’t wanna spoil anything for people who haven’t read my book, Henrietta the Dragon Slayer, but it was kind of a tongue in cheek choice that I made to call her that, 

and it’s not the ending you expect. I had her really change her ways and yet she confronts a dragon in that story or she finds herself in front of a dragon in a completely unexpected way.

And, I really wanted to upend, it wasn’t totally conscious, but I knew that it would end up differently for her. Her past was a dragon slayer, her present in the story and the further stories is something else. And I wanted to play with a strong young woman who is completely capable, but who is now confronted with new choices because she’s desiring for something new. And that’s what I notice I’m playing with in, in that particular series of stories is that what we think is the monster isn’t necessarily what we have been taught. I guess that would be a great summary, especially for the stories that I’m working on now and the little TV series that I wanna do for Henrietta and her friends.

It feels like our culture has taught us to be afraid of certain things, but those things are actually not the things, not the true monsters.


Yes. Yeah. Well, and we’ve been taught to be afraid of our wildness. We have, and what I think is really interesting, and one of the things that I was writing about is that women themselves are afraid of other women’s wildness. The story that we often talk about in feminism is men against women. I think we may be past that, especially when we look at gender fluidity and all of just the fabulous, marvelous ways in which we can all express ourselves, you know?

But one of the stories that, we don’t tell is the ways that women can turn on each other. And one of the things that really helped me was a friend of mine introduced me to the concept of lateral violence, where minority groups will turn on each other because we don’t really have anywhere else to go.

And when you don’t have power in the world and you think power is scarce, it becomes easier and easier to then try and gain that power through overpowering other people. Does that make sense?


Absolutely. Yeah, it totally makes sense. Yeah. that’s a very powerful term: lateral violence.

I grew up being aware that women could snipe on other women and having had that experience myself, and also I’ve learned as an adult that I have a kind of personality that either people are in sync with or like, yay, or other people see me as a challenge, because I do show up in the world as a challenge, like, I have a challenge for you. I can be dismissed because I am too challenging or because I don’t show up in a typical way. But it can show up- like people are like, who are you? because I’m not making any excuses for what I’m doing. I’m also not, I’m not putting myself in their face, but it’s hard for me to express. 

I don’t know if you know what I’m getting at.


Yeah. Oh yeah, I know. Okay.


What am I talking about? Tell me, tell me Vanessa. What am I talking about?


I don’t know for sure. I think what I’m hearing because I’m not you and I’m not in your experience.

What I think what I’m hearing is that it’s easy to be dismissed as a woman, but 

then it’s also easy to be dismissed for being a challenging and a strong woman.




Right. And I’ve felt that way in my own way. I think when I started letting go of the smile, pretty good girl, right?

Because that was palatable. That’s something that, in order to be heard, give a nice smile, right?

Sorry, my cat – my cat is being wild as we’re speaking right now. It’s distracting me. I have a loud voice. I have strong thoughts. And I am also highly educated in a world where that’s not as common for women. I don’t know the stats. I should probably learn them, but I would be surprised if I found out that it was equal men and women getting doctoral degrees.

And I am a pointer of elephant out in rooms, and so I I know what it’s like to be a strong woman in the world and, and not be met just as a person. Take my gender out of the conversation. Take what I’m wearing out of the conversation. Take whether I’m wearing makeup or not wearing makeup.

If I’m, heels or not heels — do not wear because I can’t. But, like, just meet me as I am. And I think that’s something that, biological men receive. That’s one of the things that they get, is that they actually can go into a room and be taken seriously just for being who they are. And they don’t have to apologize for it.

They don’t have to diminish it. They don’t have to smile pretty for it. They can just come in, be confident, be strong, and not be called a bitch.

They’re just confident.



Thanks for listening to part one of my interview with Vanessa Sage. Stay tuned for part two, where we continue our conversation about Barbie and the wild woman archetype.


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All right, everyone. That’s it for now.

So write long and prosper.

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Beth Barany teaches science fiction and fantasy novelists how to write, edit, and publish their books as a coach, teacher, consultant, and developmental editor. She’s an award-winning fantasy and science fiction novelist and runs the podcast, “How To Write The Future.”


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