Today’s society has a high level of expectations concerning women and their beauty.
Despite all the advances of the Women’s Movement, women are still expected to fit into a specific mold of prettiness. If they fail to meet these standards they are put aside and placed under a category of unworthiness called ugly. Our society looks at the physical characteristics of women and finds total disregard for their personalities, or qualities as human beings.Marge Piercy’s writing grasps the conceptual view of the role women play in a must be beautiful society, and discusses the teasing, loneliness, and the ultimate destruction that the social scene plays in defining beauty in women.
Piercy is viewed as a woman of socialist feminist tradition. In this poem Marge Piercy tells the readers about a girl who is going through her teenage years and is facing a lot of problems. She feels that during this ‘growing’ process a female has to listen to comments that people make.If she doesn’t fit their description of beauty, they pass rude remarks and then she is forced to put up a front and behave in a typical feminine manner. The people around us do not try to look at a girl’s qualities.
It’s only the looks that matter to them. That is why the poem is named “Barbie Doll”. It’s because girls’ appearance is expected to be like a Barbie – tall, thin and attractive. The society does not understand the fact that we all are beautiful in different ways. 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. The first stanza explains that a baby girl is gifted things like toy stoves, irons and dolls and persuaded to ‘act’ like a woman since early childhood. These toys relate to the traditional responsibilities of women.
At that point itself girls are made to learn what they should be for the society and are compelled to follow the norms. Women use lipsticks and other cosmetics to enhance their looks; so, even the girl is gifted such items in order to be reminded that she is ‘supposed’ to be pretty and attractive.During the teenage years people become conscious of their looks and to add to all that, others comment on their appearance and give all sorts of suggestions.
During this phase of life youngsters are very unstable. Mainly due to the changes that they go through externally and internally (emotionally). They get upset very fast if someone passes a remark or points out the fact that they are ‘not good looking’. Therefore, even the little girl got disturbed when her classmate pointed out that she has fat legs and a fat nose.
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. The second stanza talks about the girl’s positive attributes such as intelligence, strength, skillfulness and good health. These particular details are usually connected to a male and, according to world, are of no use if a woman is not beautiful. Basically, for people it’s more important to have beauty with brains and good qualities rather than just be a good person at heart.
With such attitude of the society, the girl was placed in a situation where she had to put on a facade and apologize for her misfortunes. Instead of thanking God for what he had given her, she went around regretting about what she had. This teenager didn’t realize that our appearance remains with us for a while. It’s the inner beauty that remains with us forever, and that is what people will always remember us for. 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 legsand offered them up. In the third stanza, the girl was recommended to act shy and have a smile on her face. Again she was forced to behave in a way that was unreal, that is, like a Barbie Doll. Also she was urged to be lively, go on a diet in order to lose some weight and do some exercise to get a good figure. Through the teenage years, beauty seems to be a determinant for popularity and some success, which is important to young girls during middle and high school.
At an early age, remarks made about one’s appearances can damage an adolescent’s personality and self-esteem.In this particular case, it was deathly for this child, as it is for some. She cut off her nose and her legs, in response to this. Conclusion- Instead of believing in ourselves we rely on the opinions of others. Unfortunately, all this unhappiness we obtain in trying to match the expectations of others, simply becomes a path to our ultimate destruction.
After all is said and done it is the individual herself who has harmed her own nature in trying to become “perfect,” and not the fault of the social scene, which is only a reflection of our belief system. No one’s opinion should matter more than one’s own.