Study Guide

Barbie Doll Women and Femininity

By Marge Piercy

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Women and Femininity

The girlchild in "Barbie Doll" gives us a good idea of what it's like to be a young woman growing up in America (though hopefully times have improved since the seventies). We get a clear, and creepy, snapshot of some of the absurd expectations society often dangles over the heads of womenfolk.

Questions About Women and Femininity

  1. What's the significance of the neologism, "girlchild"? What does the speaker appear to be emphasizing through this word?
  2. How is femininity portrayed in the poem? Does being a woman in mainstream society strike you as a condition of weakness or strength, according to the speaker's portrayal?
  3. How does the fairytale quality of the poem's sound contribute to the theme of women and femininity? 
  4. How does the speaker's tone contribute to the poem's theme of womanhood and femininity?

Chew on This

Between the "pee-pee dolls" and creepy-sexy corpses, this poem shows us how femininity in mainstream culture appears to be in need of a real makeover (without the makeup).

It's not that women are portrayed in "Barbie Doll" to be weak in mainstream culture, but rather society bars them from exercising their true strength. Girl power, gang.

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