The Harm of Traditional Beauty Standards in Marge Piercy’s “Barbie Doll”

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Written during the height of second wave feminism in 1973, Marge Piercy's "Barbie doll" (236) is a social commentary on beauty standards and the worth of women. The poem's title is a reference to the popular children's toy by Mattel, the Barbie doll. Even though this was a toy made for young girls, it has always had a connotation of sexuality and the "ideal" beauty. Piercy makes the critique, through the poem, that the standards of beauty projected by the Barbie dolls are harmful and how they are damaging to the self-esteem and the physical well-being of young girls. Because the girl in the poem does not fit the standard set forth, she is laughed at by her peers and devalued for her lack of classic beauty. She had many positive qualities "possessed strong arms and back" (8), "test intelligent"(7) and "abundant sexual drive and manual dexterity"(9). But, because of her larger nose and fat legs, the negative self-image pushed her to self-mutilation and suicide. The message is blunt, traditional beauty standards are harmful, and the women and girls who do not live up to them lack worth in society’s eyes. In the first stanza, the "girlchild"(1) is born. The shackles of classic femininity are given to her even in her early youth. The "miniature GE stoves"(2), "irons"(2) and "dolls that did pee-pee"(3) are all items of her oppression into the classic submissive role of a demure housewife. "Wee lipsticks the color of cherry candy"(4) spark the idea that to be a woman you must be pretty and done up. At the end of the stanza the tone changes during perhaps the most fragile part of a young girl's life, during the "magic of puberty" (5), a classmate tells her she has "a great big nose and fat legs" (6). Abruptly, the girl is made aware of society's view of her and how she is only worth how pretty she is, no matter what other qualities she has. In the next stanza, the

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