Gender Identity in Piercys Barbie Doll Dolls often give children their first lessons in what a society considers valuable andbeautiful.
These dolls often reveal the unremitting pressure to be young, slim, and beautiful in asociety which values mainly aesthetics. Marge Piercys Barbie Doll exhibits how a girlschildhood is saturated with gender-defined roles and preconceived norms for how one shouldbehave. In order to convey her thoughts, the author uses familiar, yet ironic, imagery, as well asuses fluctuating tone in each stanza to better draw attention to the relevant points of herThe first four lines of Barbie Doll are written in a trite, simplistic tone which representthe normality and basic needs of infancy. It is at this point in ones life that a child has no abilityto deviate from the norm, simply because they have no knowledge of it and are completelyinfluenced by what their parents present them with.Order now
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 theintroductory stanza changes abruptly in line five when the speaker relates Then, in the magic ofpuberty, a classmate said/ You have a great big nose and fat legs. What is particularly ironic isthat puberty is referred to as a magic time, when really it is a time for emotional crisis withinmany children as they struggle to develop their autonomy.
This line is directed in a candidfashion which digresses from the mildness of the first few lines, rendering it quite more effectiveThe second stanza of Barbie Doll starts off as normal as the first, but easily strays intodifferent meaning. While She was healthy, tested intelligent (7) connotes positive aspects ofthe girl, possessed strong arms and back/ abundant sexual drive and manual dexterity connotesan entirely divergent idea. Gender roles always defined the man as strong and the woman asweak, the man as skillful with his hands and the woman as skillful with a cookie tin, andfinally, the man as the sexual aggressor while the woman was the submissive help-mate. Inlines eight and nine, the girl is identified by the characteristics typically associated with the malegender, something quite unusual and completely opposite that of what line seven implies. Shewent to and fro apologizing (10) conveys that the girl recognizes her traits as disparaging anddishonorable. The last line of the second stanza again changes in tone from simple to forthrightwith the statement Everyone saw a fat nose on thick legs(11).
This line re-emphasizes theugliness of not measuring up to the standard of an ideal female, a standard set by society. Piercy addresses the stereotypical manners that women are pressured to perform in thethird stanza when she writes She was advised to play coy/exhorted to come on hearty/exercise,diet, smile, and wheedle(12-14). By advising the girl to act enthusiastic in response to a man,starve herself to be thin, fake emotions, and influence men with soft words and flattery, theauthor makes a general statement about how women were practically forced to be somethingwhether or not they wanted to. The words coy and smile conjure up images of a falsepassivity that women must endure, images that help to shape the poem by providing a better viewof what the subject experienced. Line fifteen contains a reference to a fan belt, an object that,similarly to a persons good nature, will wear out from use and abuse. The change in tone isrepeated once again as the author switches from mild lines about personality to a dramatic line inwhich an analogy is made to represent an internal change in the characters mentality.
With the beginning of the last stanza of Barbie Doll, the reader can achieve almost asense of relinquishment as the subject symbolically . . . cut off her nose and her legs/ and offeredthem up. The reader is led to believe that the girl has come to a realization that she mustaccount for the loneliness and emptiness that she has felt as a result of imitating a false person.
This culmination is her death, an act of her surrendering herself to the pain. With line twentysmention of an …undertakers cosmetics painted on, the .