It’s often very difficult to marry my love of poetry with my broader feminist views, because it’s very easy to accidentally fall into Dead White Guy channels and forget about what else is out there. This isn’t because I’m not looking for varied backgrounds among my poets or don’t appreciate those voices, but because for much of my life I’ve preferred to read Complete Works Of poetry volumes, and most of the poets for whom these volumes exist are the classic Dead White Guys. I’ve always found poetic progression very interesting, so to me reading a Complete Works Of volume tends to be more fulfilling than reading a single poem or even a single collection. I equate the idea of jumping into a random poet’s work with a random collection to starting a science fiction or fantasy series on book 4.
I’m trying to wean myself off of these habits, though, and discover and appreciate a broader range of poets and poem types. While on my wanderings, I was really pleased to find Marge Piercy’s “Barbie Doll,” which I think perfectly sums up the bizarre tendency our society has to convince girls that they aren’t pretty for whatever reason. Fuck that. You’re beautiful just the way you are, as beautiful as you let yourself feel, if you even care to think about beauty at all.
Barbie Doll by Marge Piercy
This girlchild was born as usual
and presented dolls that did pee-pee
and miniature GE stoves and irons
and wee lipsticks the color of cherry candy.
Then in the magic of puberty, a classmate said:
You have a great big nose and fat legs.
She was healthy, tested intelligent,
possessed strong arms and back,
abundant sexual drive and manual dexterity.
She went to and fro apologizing.
Everyone saw a fat nose on thick legs.
She was advised to play coy,
exhorted to come on hearty,
exercise, diet, smile and wheedle.
Her good nature wore out
like a fan belt.
So she cut off her nose and her legs
and offered them up.
In the casket displayed on satin she lay
with the undertaker’s cosmetics painted on,
a turned-up putty nose,
dressed in a pink and white nightie.
Doesn’t she look pretty? everyone said.
Consummation at last.
To every woman a happy ending.