Marge Piercy wrote the poem “Barbie Doll” in her 1973 collection, To Be Of Use. The story follows the life of a young girl growing up with modern expectations that she struggles to conform to.
Barbie Doll uses different aspects of a woman’s life to express the different pressures on women in today’s society. The first characteristic Piercy uses to emphasize the stereotypes attached to women are images, colors, and toys that are traditionally associated with girls; the main character of the poem is given gifts that are very feminine.The other aspects Piercy utilizes are the magic of puberty, and she also uses the popular children’s doll Barbie, as seen in the title of her poem. To highlight society’s expectations on women, the main character at the end of the first stanza is ridiculed by a peer because of her looks. Stereotypes of how a woman should appear and behave have always been around in some shape or form.
These ideas are instilled in girl’s minds at a young age. These ideas, however, can be very difficult for women that cannot or wish not to conform to, such as the main character in the poem who in the end has taken her own life because she couldn’t fit in.By using the iconic image of the Barbie Doll, Piercy criticizes the ways in which women are socialized into stereotypical feminine behavior. Written similar to a fairy-tale, the poem suggests that society pressures women to conform to particular ways of looking and behaving and that in the end these are destructive. The...
Barbie Doll, one of the best-selling “toys” of all time, has become an icon of our culture for the way it idealizes the female body.
For more than 40 years parents have been buying the doll for their daughters, who attempt to imitate Barbie’s appearance and the values that her appearance may embody. Piercy suggests that it is extremely destructive. The title of this poem refers to Mattel’s Barbie Doll, a popular toy for young girls. The original Barbie is tall, blonde, blue eyed and shapely. Barbie made her introduction in 1959 at the American Toy Fair in New York City.
The poem begins in a fairy-tale fashion; the archaic term “girl child” is used to emphasize the mythical quality of the story.The dolls, GE stove, iron and lipstick are all traditional playthings for young girls, but they are also markers of an identity in the making, the things that young girls grow to identify with. The doll presents an idealized image of the body. The stove and irons tell them what kind of work is expected of them when they grow up. Lipstick, some claim the most sexualized cosmetic for women, signals to young girls that they will be valued for their physical appearance.
The “magic of puberty” suggests the theme of growth. It’s a magical time because the body is ever changing.Girls become young women and their bodies change. Piercy uses the term ironically here, as she is also referring to the pain that comes with puberty. Teens become more aware of one another as sexual and social beings,
along with this comes a great desire to become cruel toward one another. The “girl child” is told she has “a great big nose and fat legs” even though she is smart, healthy and strong.
These qualities are seen as being positive only for males, not females. Being good with one’s hands (manual dexterity) is a conventional male trait.Having an “abundant sexual drive” for boys might be seen as a stepping stone to manhood, for girls it is considered aggressive or slutty. Another author Alice Van Wart suggests: “By collapsing the images “of a great big nose and fat legs into the comic image of “a fat nose on thick legs,” Piercy uses synecdoche (a figure of Speech in which the part stands for the whole, or the whole stands for the part), to draw attention both to her use of irony and to the sad fact the young woman can only see herself in the terms of the artificial ideal. (Van Wart 02)”The girl was made to feel guilty for who she was, for being smart and capable and for not being slim and “beautiful. ” She apologized to everyone for not being the person they wanted her to be, but all they could see was her body and how it did not match their ideas of what a woman should look like.
They tried to help her be more accepted by suggesting how to compensate for her unfeminine qualities. It is important to understand that for Piercy the “girl child” is “every girl” not a poetic character with no relation to the real world.Children are socialized through family, culture, and education from the day they are born. Piercy is symbolically looking at the process of how children come to inhabit their gendered identities and the destructive consequences of those processes for women. Her “good nature,” that part of her that always accommodates others, has been so exploited that she can no longer continue.
She “offers up” (a gesture of sacrifice) her nose and legs, the symbols in her disturbed mind. These lines are filled with irony.The very person that the girl child could never be is the person “appearing” in her casket, after a makeover by the undertaker. “A turned-up putty nose” and “a pink and white nightie” are features of a Barbie-like beauty and femininity. It is ironic that the very people (“everyone”) who could not appreciate the girl child, for who she was in life, now admire the person she is made to be in death.
In Piercy’s fable, it is society (not the girl) that achieves consummation; it has made the girl child into what it wanted. Consummation” is used to describe her completion. The last line of the poem echoes the happy ending of a fairy-tale. Ending as it began. In this case Piercy is saying that because of women’s subservient position in society, it is often difficult for their lives to have happily ever -afters.
Piercy’s poem symbolizes what happens tp young women in real life. Women all over the world have this stigma that if you don’t look like Barbie, you don’t