by Marge Piercy
This girlchild was born as usual
and presented dolls that did pee-pee
and miniature GE ovens 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 intellegent,
posessed strong arms and back,
abundant sexual drive and manual dexterity.
She went to and fro apologizing.
Everyone saw a fat nose and 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 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.
Consumation at last.
To every woman a happy ending.
“Barbie Doll” by Marge Piercy is an interesting poem that discusses a girl’s perception of herself influenced by societal images. The poem is easy for any woman, especially a woman who is or ever has been overweight, to understand.
The poem tells about an ordinary girl being born in the usual way who was healthy and intelligent. As she grew to maturity, a classmate told her “You have a great big nose and fat legs” which sets the tone of the poem. From that point on, the girl “went to and fro apologizing” for her looks while being advised to diet, exercise, and smile. Finally, the girl lost it and “cut off her nose and her legs and offered them up”. The next section of the poem discusses how the undertaker had fixed her up to look “pretty”. The final lines of the poem say, “Consummation at last. To every woman a happy ending.”
I think Piercy wanted to express the emotions of a woman who cannot compete with the image society places on women. Females are judged on their beauty rather than intelligence or strength. I think the poem ended the way it did because Piercy wanted to drive the point further by provoking the thought that the images of perfection killed the girl’s spirit, and that if the stereotype continues, all women will have the same “pretty”, but tragic ending.
Women often lose sight of themselves and their spirits while searching for outward beauty.