English 1B 7 November 2011 Never Enough, Never Perfect, Never Happy Society tells us what we should be, who we should be, what we should look and act like and what is perfect. Too many women try to fit this ideal of what we should be based on media and society in an imperfect world. Marge Piercy is criticizing this in her poem “Barbie doll”. The poem shows how ridiculous it is the way we try to conform to what society’s ideals are for the perfect woman.
And presented dolls that did pee-pee/ miniature GE stoves and irons/ and wee lipsticks the color of cherry candy” (2-4). These are all traditional toys for girls but also things that have an influence on a girls identity and essentially put them in their place for their future roles in life. The dolls body image is what to look up to and a role model of sorts for how it is expected you should look to be pretty.
The “GE stoves and irons” (3) show what kinds of things they will be expected to do when they grow up.
The lipstick shows sexuality and that appearance is the most important of all. “Then in the magic of puberty, a classmate said:/ you have a great big nose and fat legs” (5-6). Puberty not only emphasizes the growing up and into a different stage in life because a girl starts her period but also when life can start to be more difficult because this is when kids start to be more mean and more critical of each other.
The classmate criticizing her appearance starts a downward spiral into her endless struggle for perfection. “She went to and fro apologizing. Everyone saw a fat nose on thick legs” (10-11) shows how she repeatedly we try to gain others approvals and change things to make people happy and when we don’t we apologize for our imperfections. We have such a skewed view at this point that we think it is our fault and that we need to try harder if others don’t see us as the ideal woman in our society. We start to let others perceptions define who we are and skew our self-image into something grotesque. “She was advised…/exercise, diet, smile and wheedle” (12, 14) Piercy describes how society tells us what we must do to have others like us and to become the ideal.
We must obey, shut up, and have the perfect body image or nobody will love us and we mustn’t love ourselves the way we are we must be continually trying to be someone we aren’t but someone everyone else thinks we should be. “Doesn’t she look pretty? everyone said. / To every woman a happy ending” (23, 25). These last few lines I think are the most important. You can hear them dripping with sarcasm and irony that only have she has killed herself and destroyed who she is by taking away what others deem to be imperfect is she finally accepted but at what cost?
The reality is that it will never be enough no matter what we do because there will always be people who don’t like the way we are and demand that we change if we want to be accepted and so we will keep on trying and trying until there is nothing left of ourselves. We behave based on how others perceive us and we take offense and try to change ourselves when others put us down and try to tell us we aren’t who society says we should be. Marge Pierce describes in her poem how our struggle to conform to society and media can make us self destruct and harm ourselves in that endless pursuit.
Stereotypical gender roles in our society dissolve our self-confidence and destroy our self-image. She ironically uses a Barbie doll to describe this as a Barbie is made to look perfect and made to look exactly like what we believe is the ideal for our society in the time that our society is in. The Barbie doll is idealized as a blonde who is attractive but dull, who doesn’t speak up and who knows little other than what she is told to do. Unfortunately, this is not a realistic image for girls today but it is exactly what they are being told is an acceptable role model.