Study Guide

Barbie Doll Stanza 2

By Marge Piercy

Stanza 2

Lines 7-9

She was healthy, tested intelligent,
possessed strong arms and back,
abundant sexual drive and manual dexterity.

  • By the second stanza, we're starting to notice some of the absurdity that's part of the adult world and the values they've come to impose upon young women and their worth. 
  • The girlchild here seems to have it all: health, intelligence, strength, sexuality, manual dexterity—you name it. But still, the kids only point out her appearance rather than her character.
  • So we're starting to understand the problem here a bit better. The adult world raises kids in a way that values a woman's appearance and what she can do in a kitchen rather than her seemingly limitless talents beyond those pee-pee dolls. And of course, once kids catch wind of what's supposed to be "normal" and "valuable," they spare no expense when it comes to mimicking those expectations in rather cruel ways.

Lines 10-11

She went to and fro apologizing.
Everyone saw a fat nose on thick legs.

  • If we weren't feeling bad for the girl yet, we probably are now. Those mean kids are the ones picking on her and yet she is the one apologizing! Imagine having someone steal your milk and then you find yourself apologizing. That's kind of the level of absurdity we're dealing with here.
  • And why is she apologizing? Because she's somehow to blame for having a fat nose and big legs. As a woman she therefore appears entirely intolerable in a society that only values women for what they look like. So the speaker is really homing in on the ways women are expected to look, and if they don't look that way, they're expected to apologize for any inconvenience they've caused for the people looking at her. Talk about sick and twisted.
  • The takeaway point is in line 11 that points out that everyone only sees the girlchild for her appearance, even though her attributes far outweigh her imperfections. And again, we assume this is happening because of the adult world's absurd expectations and values for women.

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