This girlchild was born as usual
and presented dolls that did pee-pee
and miniature GE stoves and irons
and wee lipsticks the color of cherry candy.
Then in the magic of puberty, a classmate said:
You have a great big nose and fat legs.
She was healthy, tested intelligent,
possessed strong arms and back,
abundant sexual drive and manual dexterity.
She went to and fro apologizing.
Everyone saw a fat nose on thick legs.
She was advised to play coy,
exhorted to come on hearty,
exercise, diet, smile and wheedle.
Her good nature wore out
like a fan belt.
So she cut off her nose and her legs
and offered them up.
In the casket displayed on satin she lay
with the undertaker’s cosmetics painted on,
a turned-up putty nose,
dressed in a pink and white nightie.
Doesn’t she look pretty? everyone said.
Consummation at last.
To every woman a happy ending.
“Barbie Doll” is a poem that was written by Marge Piercy in her original collection “Circles in the Water.” She is an American poet, novelist and social activist so we can infer that this is a feminist poem. Feminism is a movement against what society thinks is the “norm” with women. It can be their image, how they are presented, how they must act, what professions they are allowed to work in, etc. Therefore, it is not surprising that an activist would write a poem about female appearance and how it is seen by the world rather than how it should be.
Marge starts off the poem with the timeline of a girl. Let’s call this little girl “X.” At first, X is a little girl that is presented with dolls, miniature stoves and irons. Which are all associated with women’s possessions and how eventually every woman will learn to play around with the “real” ones. Then she moves on to the girl hitting puberty. Puberty is a stage that girls and boys go through sometime in their teenage lives and it begins with their bodies transforming. Some people might be lucky with puberty and others might not be. In X’s case, she developed a big nose and fat legs, which were never noticed until a classmate pointed them out. That classmate is only the start to a domino effect. Although X was healthy, intelligent, and physically fit she could not stand what people only saw of her; fat nose on thick legs (Barbie Doll, 360).
As any girl going through bodily changes, X was told to remain positive, to exercise, diet, smile and keep going. But as every real woman knows, those don’t last very long. She eventually gave in to the world’s criticism and cut off her nose and legs, offering them to the world as a truce. However, what X really gave up wasn’t only a part of her but it was her inner self. She lies in her deathbed with a layer or two of painted cosmetics, and dressed in an expected pink gown. But all that everyone could think of was not her true self but of how “pretty” she looked.
This poem just goes to show the extremity of sexism and stereotyping that women go through from the moment they are born. They are expected to play with certain toys, to act a certain way, to look a certain way and at the same time maintain their mentality and self-being. However, not every woman is as strong as they must be. Some women eventually give into society’s standards and undergo dramatic changes just to satisfy a group of people who are sadly considered the majority. This can only go on till they transform themselves into a Barbie doll in an open casket that screams “Finally! I am one of you!” Yet no one even bothers to learn these little girls’ actual names.
*Girls are important to our future. Instead of making fun of the way they look, we should encourage them to change the world rather than themselves. Check out “The Importance of The Girl” video I put up!*