Essay Example on the Impact of "Gendered" Toys on Children in Barbie Doll Poem

Published: 2022-12-09
Essay Example on the Impact of "Gendered" Toys on Children in Barbie Doll Poem
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Gender Poem Child development Childhood Gender in literature
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 951 words
8 min read

Marge Piercy's poem Barbie Doll depicts some of the significant problems the female gender face in society. Marge Piercy in a well-structured manner objectifies the body and illustrates the relationship between the female body, self and what the community expects from the female gender. The society hopes the woman to fit in the shoes of the unrealistic form of the toy known as Barbie Doll and be perfect by performing all the womanly duties and chores, and more importantly, match the stereotypes of beauty. The Barbie Doll has transformed from a toy to a role model for actual women, and the poem depicts the body of a woman as an object which creates a lot of problems when tied to the idea of gender. Gender is often associated with repeated actions and bodily gestures, and in the poem Barbie Doll, the protagonist is presented with these challenges.

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From the poem, Piercy illustrates how the main character is bestowed with objects that buttress her gender expectations, the concepts of physical beauty, and later she becomes the form of the object herself known as Barbie Doll. This poem posits how the idea of gender is reinforced at an early stage during the development stages. During the mental development of toddlers, the brain starts to internalize external values through actions and influence of the surrounding environment (Rice et al. 142). Gender identity starts being apparent during this development stage because of the family's power through the reward and punishment systems that set an expectation of the toddlers (Rice et al. 142). At this stage, mental development is always characterized by the use of objects to reinforce gender expectations as illustrated by Piercy in the poem, "This girl child was born as usual / and presented dolls that did pee-pee / and miniature GE ovens and irons / and wee lipsticks the color of cherry candy" (Piercy 1- 4). From the objects presented to the protagonist, it is apparent that these objects will dictate the actions that will inform gender expectations and identity. At early stages of childhood development, the use of dolls and maternal aspect enforces the gender expectations such rearing of children, and the toys form the prototype of societal expectations of the female gender (Rice et al. 143).

Age groups can also be differentiated by the types of dolls presented to the children, for instance, baby dolls are linked to toddlers, while toys such as Barbie Dolls are favored among children of five years and above always intended to give a picture of expected adulthood. At puberty stage, Barbie Dolls are outgrown, and the female gender at this age lack the physical object where they can project their expectations and instead turn their bodies into objects (Rice et al. 143). They learn how to take care of their bodies to meet social constructs. At puberty stage, the acts of performing gender expectations contrary to social constructs come with consequences.

Piercy illustrates that at puberty, external appearance defines standards of beauty and worth, "Then in the magic of puberty, a classmate said / You have a great big nose and fat legs" (Piercy 5- 6). At puberty stage, the protagonist is depicted as having internalized the societal expectations of physical appearance, and that is why she keeps apologizing for not meeting the standards, "She went to and fro apologizing. / Everyone saw a fat nose and thick legs" (Piercy 10 - 11). The poem also illustrates how society manipulates the female gender to meet the high expectations set by the toy and the consequences for not meeting the standards. The female body is depicted as an object where gender expectations are projected, and thus the reason why is she is constantly advised on what to do, "She was advised to play coy / exhorted to come on hearty, / exercise, diet, smile, and wheedle" (Piercy 12 - 14).

The protagonist is faced with the option of removing her body parts such as her nose and legs to fit the social constructs perfectly, and Piercy uses imagery to remind the reader of the dolls with removable body parts such as the limbs that can be easily replaced. The poem illustrates through imagery that the society is accepting human bodies that have been modified and falsified, like how body parts of a doll are replaced, and provides that, "Doesn't she look pretty? Everyone said. / Consummation at last. / To every woman a happy ending" (Piercy 23 - 25). However, the protagonist is portrayed as going to the extreme to perfectly match the descriptions of the toy doll, and the poem uses imagery to depict the fashion dolls with access to accessories and variety of classy clothes that the protagonist is trying to imitate.


In conclusion, gender is described as adhering to the societal norms and meeting gender expectations as portrayed through the object of a doll in Marge Piercy's poem. The Barbie Doll is represented as an object where the expectations of the female gender are reinforced. Children are given the objects of dolls at an early stage, and these dolls enhance their expectation and internalization of the society' expectation of the female gender. Children spend a lot of time with toys that they learn to accept the acts and notions of the female gender. When children grow older, they discover that their bodies are used as objects of gender expectations. They learn how to internalize the concept that their bodies are used as objects as demonstrated in the Barbie Doll poem.

Works Cited

Piercy, Marge. "Barbie Doll Poem By Marge Piercy - Poem Hunter". Poemhunter.Com, 2011, Accessed 28 March 2019.

Rice, Karlie, et al. "Exposure to Barbie: Effects on thin-ideal internalisation, body esteem, and body dissatisfaction among young girls." Body Image 19 (2016): 142-149. Accessed 28 March 2019.

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Essay Example on the Impact of "Gendered" Toys on Children in Barbie Doll Poem. (2022, Dec 09). Retrieved from

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