"Barbie Doll": A Woman's Place in Society Society has a way of placing unrealistic expectations on women. By using television, magazines, billboards, and even toys we see a mold of what women are supposed to look like. In other words the perfect woman should look like a Barbie Doll. In Marge Piercy's, "Barbie Doll," we find a girl child growing up through the adolescence stage characterized by appearances and barbarity. Piercy uses lots of imagery to describe the struggles the girl experiences during her teenage years and the effects that can happen. In the first stanza we see the beginning of an ideal image being stained in the girls mind.
She was." ... presented dolls that did pee-pee and miniature GE ovens and irons and wee lipsticks the color of cherry candy" (2-4). By being presented these gifts the girls parents have already instilled a visualization of what the perfect woman is like and the girl is already learning her place in society. The poem was written in 1936. In this day and age women were still seen as objects and not really people. Their place was in the kitchen and taking care of the kids.
Piercy has painted an image to the reader of a little girl playing with toy stoves and irons and wearing red lipstick to make herself pretty. The tone of the poem takes a turn toward a more bold statement when the author uses." ... the magic of puberty" (5) to describe the age where appearance comes into effect. The girl was insulted by a classmate who made humiliating comments about her nose and legs.
This kind of thing affects a child's self-esteem tremendously. It's almost as if the girl feels the need to apologize for not looking the way society wants her to. In the second stanza "She went to and fro apologizing" (10). Piercy uses imagery to show us the ugliness the girl feels by saying, "Everyone saw a fat nose on thick legs" (11). Women are sometimes pressured to act in a way that is fake such as wearing a smile when they don't want to or exercising and dieting.
The girl was told to do these things as if to say act like a lady. The child's." ... good nature wore out like a fan belt" (15-16). To the reader this line says that the girl is giving up. She then goes on to kill herself by cutting off her nose and legs.
The girl turned to suicide because of the emotional suffering caused by not fitting the profile of a Barbie doll. In the fourth stanza is where ironic imagery comes into play. "Doesn't she look pretty? everyone said." (23) The girl was finally recognized as pretty but she was laying in a casket when it happened. The girl has finally achieved society's goal for her, but only in death.
Piercy shows us this by saying "Consummation at last" (24). Even though it is no longer 1936, we still live in a world where society places pressure on women to look and act a certain way. The speaker, Marge Piercy, is trying to reach out to the girls or women that are taking society's expectations so seriously. She's telling us that by doing so our self-esteem can be lowered and our emotions can be affected so severely that things like this have actually happened. What's sad is that it still happens today. Girls are still presented with gifts such as Barbie's and toy stoves.
To parents this is a normal thing and that is why Marge Piercy tried to open their eyes a little bit with this moving piece. Girls need to learn from an early age to love themselves for who they are and not for who society expects them to be.