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Female Body Image And The Mass Media

1714 words - 7 pages

From the time they are born, girls are influenced by society as to who they should be, how they should look, and how they should act. Americans believe that women should be to a certain standard; pretty, feminine, and especially, thin. The pressures derive from family, media, and friends. Marge Piercy’s poem, “Barbie Doll” depicts a girl who was never recognized for her character and spent her life trying to be accepted for who she was, rather than how she looked.
We live in a society with rigid gender roles and expectations as to how people are supposed to be, based completely on their sex. (Benokraitis) Women are expected to be the housewife, take care of the kids, and on top of all that they need to look good doing it. Men are the ones who provide for the family financially, masculine, and are physically strong. These roles are instilled in children at a very early age. Girls play with dolls, makeup, and toy pots and pans. Boys play with action figures, sports equipment, and cars. Our culture inculcates that girls are meant to alter their appearance to look culturally acceptable with make-up and numerous hair products, and know how to cook for their future family. There is even a stereotype of how girls should typically act; emotional, talkative, passive, etc. Not all girls want this for themselves, and it can really impact their self-esteem negatively in the long run after being pressured to be a certain way all their lives. Living up to your parents standards are one thing, but society is tougher.
A major influence on a little girls’ life is one of their first toys growing up: Barbie. The poem is named “Barbie Doll” because the doll represents society’s standard of perfection that girls feel pressured to live up to. Barbie is one of the most popular toys and it’s safe to say that she is very influential to girls growing up and what they view as pretty. One study took a group of 6th grade girls and had them play with Barbie’s, then later asked them what their views of Barbie were:
“They should make a fat one.
They are all so skinny and that's mean to fat people.
They are all perfect. They never do anything real in all the books [about Barbie dolls]. I think she does too much. Yeah, they are all perfect [and] it's just too much.
I always thought Barbie was so cool; [as] I got older, I learned that it's impossible to be Barbie. She's been everywhere, [even] in outer space. She's the perfect blonde. She has the perfect blue eyes. She's like everything! If she was a real person she wouldn't be able to walk.” (Tara Kuther)
The girls did realize that Barbie’s figure is not realistic since they are now older and felt that Barbie could stand to gain a few pounds. But at a younger age the girls did envy Barbie even though she would be very disproportionate if she were a real person.
In Piercy’s poem, “Barbie Doll” the girl goes through puberty and has a really hard time with it. A classmate tells her she has a big nose and fat legs. It...

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