After a single glance at the poems “Barbie Doll,” by Marge Piercy, and “Woman,” by Nikki Giovanni one might say they are mere portrayals of two unhappy women. However, beyond the words on the page into the depth of the poems, lies two larger issues of insecurity and unrealistic desires. In “Barbie Doll,” Piercy speaks of this “girlchild,” who seemed to be progressing through adolescence like a typical young girl, with dolls and makeup. “She was healthy, tested intelligent… She went to and fro apologizing ” (Expl. Poetry, 14) Piercy writes, which conveys to the reader that she was a well mannered and wholesome young girl.
Then Piercy writes, .”.. in the magic of puberty, a classmate said: You have a great big nose and fat legs” (Expl. Poetry, 14).
In this case this “girlschild’s” classmate points out what doesn’t seem to be “the norm” for most girls and in a vicious and hurtful manner.
Not only is this classmate just a peer of the “girlchild,” but she also symbolizes society and the standards that the media places upon people in it. For example; in an average teen magazine “the normal body type of a movie star/ model is a size two” (In The Mix, 1), whereas in reality the average is somewhere around a nine. Then people within the society, or even more specifically, a young girl like the one in “Barbie Doll,” look at themselves and believe that there is something wrong with the way they are and look. After believing that they should look like what the media illustrates, girls especially like the “girlchild” develop insecurities, and lose a lot of self-confidence and self-acceptance. Then they start out trying to achieve unrealistic goals, such as looking like these size two figured women in magazines.
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For instance one may go as far as the “girlchild” when “she cut off her nose and her legs and offered them up” (Expl. Poetry, 14).
Then the consequences can lead to serious illnesses, disorders or death, also like the “girlchild,” in the poem… .” In the casket displayed on satin she lay… .” (Expl.
Just like “Barbie Doll,”Woman” is not only about a woman, but it exemplifies a deeper issue of female insecurities that exist in today’s society. Giovanni writes about this woman who seeks the approval of a certain man, and would be anything as long as she can be with him. Although he wants nothing to do with her, she keeps persisting on “wanting to be a robin singing, but he wouldn’t be her tree… she tried to be a book, but he wouldn’t read… .” (Expl.
Poetry, 22) and throughout the poem her insecurities make her feel like she has to change. But in the end, unlike “Barbie Doll” this woman realizes all she can be is a woman… and nothing more. Subsequently, after reading these two pieces the reader not only gets a message of a “girlchild,” picked on by her peers or a woman who tries to be everything she’s not for approval.
But they are open to larger issues of women’s insecurities, and unrealistic desires to be what they see in the media, or what society views as deemed socially desirable. It illustrates the hardships of being a young girl in a school with harsh peers, and the pressure of “looking good.” These two pieces also show the concept of how society often judges by physical looks, and that the pressure sometimes can be so overwhelming that it may lead to sickness or in the “girl child’s” case, death.
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