Marge Piecy's "Barbie Doll"
Gender Identity in Piercy’s "Barbie Doll" Dolls often give children their
first lessons in what a society considers valuable and beautiful. These dolls
often reveal the unremitting pressure to be young, slim, and beautiful in a
society which values mainly aesthetics. Marge Piercy’s "Barbie Doll"
exhibits how a girl’s childhood is saturated with gender-defined roles and
preconceived norms for how one should behave. In order to convey her thoughts,
the author uses familiar, yet ironic, imagery, as well as uses fluctuating tone
in each stanza to better draw attention to the relevant points of her
contention. The first four lines of "Barbie Doll" are written in a trite,
simplistic tone which represent the normality and basic needs of infancy. It is
at this point in one’s life that a child has no ability to deviate from the
norm, simply because they have no knowledge of it and are completely influenced
by what their parents present them with. The presentation of a doll and an oven,
along with lipstick (1-3), ensure that the girl will know exactly which gender
role she must be. These lines imitate the rigidity in which sexual and gender
roles are defined. The tone of the introductory stanza changes abruptly in line
five when the speaker relates "Then, in the magic of puberty, a classmate
said/ You have a great big nose and fat legs." What is particularly ironic is
that puberty is referred to as a "magic" time, when really it is a time for
emotional crisis within many children as they struggle to develop their
autonomy. This line is directed in a candid fashion which digresses from the
mildness of the first few lines, rendering it quite more effective than
simplistic speech. The second stanza of "Barbie Doll" starts off as normal
as the first, but easily strays into different meaning. While "She was
healthy, tested intelligent" (7) connotes positive aspects of the girl,
"possessed strong arms and back/ abundant sexual drive and manual dexterity"
connotes an entirely divergent idea. Gender roles always defined the man as"strong" and the woman as "weak," the man as "skillful with his
hands" and the woman as "skillful with a cookie tin," and finally, the man
as the "sexual aggressor" while the woman was the "submissive
help-mate." In lines eight and nine, the girl is identified by the
characteristics typically associated with the male gender, something quite
unusual and completely opposite that of what line seven implies. "She went to...
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