Power Of Words In Marge Piercy's Barbie Doll

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The Power of Words in Marge Piercy’s “Barbie Doll”
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me!” This sing-song chant has echoed across school yards and classrooms in America for generations, often in retaliation of carelessly thrown phrases from bullies and friends alike. Despite its adamant positivity, the message proves to be less than reliable. No matter how many times the phrase is repeated, there is no escaping the fact that words do indeed hurt. In “Barbie Doll”—a poem by Marge Peircy—the main character is a young girl whose life is ultimately destroyed by the words of a junior-high classmate. According to an article by Parveen and Wasal Kahn, victims of verbal abuse slowly lose themselves and grow hollow before
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Drink this. Don’t eat that. Buy this. Wear that. Everyone has a different opinion on how things should be done. In the third stanza of “Barbie Doll,” the young girl is trapped in a hailstorm of advice. It says that “she was advised to play coy, / exhorted to come on hearty, / exercise, diet, smile and wheedle” (Piercy l.13-15) In an effort to grow stronger, she only finds herself caught in the crossfire of conflicting ideas. Every option listed is the polar opposite of its neighboring recommendation. In today’s society, adolescents—especial girls—endure an immense amount of pressure from all sides. With the ever-increasing push from mainstream media to be small and sexy, it is no wonder that many have turned to drastic measures such as anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders that plague young adults across the world. According to an article on body image and self-esteem in young people “The body size of women in the media is often more than 20% underweight (Spitzer, Henderson, & Zivian, 1999)—exceeding a diagnostic criterion for anorexia nervosa of 15% underweight (DSM-IV-TR: American Psychiatric Association, 2000).” It is no wonder that the girl in “Barbie Doll” is confused and tired. Later on it says that she “(….) wore out / like a fan belt” (Piercy 1.15-16). The constant effort to “fix” herself to match the unrealistic standards leaves her completely drained of life. It wears her down until she cannot handle …show more content…
Regardless of the intent of the initial speaker, the ultimate outcome is suicide. “Barbie Doll” tells the story of a young girl whose life is cut short by the psychological struggle resulting from a cruel comment. This highlights the issue in our society that suddenly promotes the act of body shaming as something that should be glorified and encouraged. This kind of behavior is detrimental to the psychological well-being of individuals everywhere—especially during the tender and impressionable age of adolescence. It also lifts a voice up for those struggling with self-image because of the unrealistic body types portrayed in the media and throughout the fashion world. Had this girl been given positive reinforcement in her daily life from the media and her peers, she likely would not have gone to such lengths to alter herself. Society has to change in order to avoid this problem. Body shaming ends one person at a

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