Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Barbie Dolls: cultural icons

I've been thinking about the following poem for some time now. The name of the poet was lost in the myriad mazes of my mind, and I was unable to locate the poem in the perverse labyrinths of my belongings - although, I know I have a copy because I used it in certain classes to shock students into thinking. Today, as often happens, the Gods of Coincidence and Serendipity smiled on me, and as I was reading something else, I saw the name of the poet - Marge Piercy. Online research turned up a copy immediately (who knows when I'll find it in the pit of a filing cabinet). It is not a pretty poem, but I'm glad I located a copy because there was an incident that made me think about it a month or so ago, and the words are so scaldingly appropriate.

Barbie Doll

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.

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.

She was advised to play coy,
exhorted to come on hearty,
exercise, diet, smile and wheedle.
Her good nature wore outlike a fan belt.
So she cut off her nose and her 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.

Consummation at last.
To every woman a happy ending.

Marge Piercy


  1. I love Marge Piercy's poetry! I was introduced to her poems about 5 years ago with the poem, The Low Road which was pinned at eye level above my desk when I worked.

    Is this piece giving birth to a quilt?

  2. Oh, no. I wouldn't attempt this as a quilt. I've replied to you in an email - but I do think "The Low Road" would make a great quilt.

  3. oh, thanks for this poem - my best friend is currently collecting used barbies (poor sad haircut grubby barbies) as part of hernext artwork - I will pass the poem on. Ta!


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