Barbie Doll Questions and Answers
by Marge Piercy

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How does the poem "Barbie Doll" by Marge Piercy demonstrate gender discrimination? I need quotes and explanations.

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In the poem, a little girl is born and is immediately provided with "dolls that did pee-pee," little kitchen appliances, and tiny red lipsticks. She is only a baby, and yet she is already being presented with symbols of society's expectations of women: that women ought to want to have and take care of their own babies, that they ought to want to spend a lot of time in their homes and doing things for their families, and that they ought to always try hard to look beautiful and put-together. Little girls are taught these values early, and this little girl is not taught, for instance, to run fast or work hard in math or to be independent; she is taught that her value is assigned according to what she can do for and how she can please others. This constitutes gender discrimination, as boys are not taught this.

As this little girl ages, she is told that she has "a great big nose and fat legs"—signs that she is not what society would want her to be. Despite her "health" and her "intelligen[ce]" and her "abundant sexual drive," she feels the need to apologize for herself over and over. Encouraged to "play coy...exercise, diet, smile and wheedle," she grows worn out trying to please everyone else, never herself; she never feels good enough, pretty enough, thin enough. This is gender discrimination: men's value is not tied to their appearance, at least not to the degree that women's are. Men aren't unacceptable if they have big noses and fat legs; women are.

So, the girl has plastic surgery to "fix" her flaws, and she dies. She looks so beautiful in her casket, though. She is pretty, and everyone approves of her, finally. It is as though, for a woman, it is better to be beautiful and dead than "flawed" and living; this is gender discrimination.

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