Mass Construct in Barbie Doll by Marge Percy

Barbie Doll The Common Women Poems, III. Nadine, resting on her neighbor’s stoop 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. Mass’ Constructs The Mass’ Construction or the matters which related to power relation and domination by Michel Foucault might be applied into the poem of ‘Barbie Doll? by Marge Piercy. Clearly could be seen, the victim from the poem are exactly a woman.
While she’s only a kid, the topic of Mass’ Construction is strongly applied into the theme and atmosphere of the poem. As Michel Foucault stated in his ‘Power/Knowledge’, the stronger one person the bigger his position to influence the weaker opposites. For Michel Foucault it is through discourse (through knowledge) that we are created. If we are the sum of our experiences (the knowledge we encounter), then those in control of our early life experiences have enormous power. In an isolated family, a child’s knowledge depends upon just a few people. In a sense, those few people create the child’s identity.

From Power and Knowledge, comes ‘Discipline and Punish’ for the littlegirl. That these reorganizations of knowledge were also intertwined with new forms of power and domination. The littlegirl cannot attempt to learn anything but what is communicated by them by her society. This is what the little girl had experienced in the poem. Not mentioning she is a little girl, it doubles the oppression she should endure in order to get accepted by this Mass’ Construct society. Thus, this one-sided ideal to construct a woman theme might synergic with the Power/Knowledge as well as Discipline and Punish which both are coined by Michel Foucault.
This tragic poem depicts the struggle of a little girl which surrounded by the all-controlling society. To control something, one side/individual definitely have power to execute it. It is practiced by how the society constructed the girl who only knows the beauty of the doll which she’s play with. While this is also could be seen as kids’ innocent activity, the idea of parents give their daughter a ‘barbie doll’ might be interpreted as the act of power controlling. Parents, who are the closest part of society towards the kids inarguably, took the first role in controlling the little girls.
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. What the parents and society knows are that girls should act as a ‘girl’ by their only own point of view. And it has been done by presented her with the typical girls’ toy in a form of dolls. They are not only ordinary dolls in usual, but the dolls were concluded with their domestic tools, ‘and miniature GE stoves and irons’. It has been shown implicitly on how society sees woman and how to treat one.
And as a woman, one should shows the ‘beauty’ by the line ‘and wee lipsticks the color of cherry candy. ’ If not red, cherry candies are pink colored, the color which depicts the soft sides of the women. When it is correlated to the facts of Power/Knowledge by Foucault, this is the part where the basic knowledge of the society towards women is exactly the same with what the poem described. And because ‘This girlchild was born as usual’, she should acted as one. It is ironic when the quotation above connected to the very next lines on the same stanza.
Then in the magic of puberty, a classmate said: You have a great big nose and fat legs. The breakdown of the littlegirl started here. The picture of dolls (Barbie doll) had planted since she was kid by their parents. The relationship between peers at school also played a great role to build an identity of one person. And those peers of the littlegirl also one of the societies which construct the girl’s self. Unconsciously, she should know by now what kind of girl which boys/students from these lines who represented society preferred are.
This is how the image of Barbie doll became the solid mental picture of perfect woman craved within the girl. Her place as the minority who surrounded by the construction of society has grown a guilty feeling inside the littlegirl. This might be caused by how she tried to show her good self as a woman so the society wanted to accept her existence. The strong proofs for this point are as mentioned on these lines: She went to and fro apologizing. Everyone saw a fat nose on thick legs. ‘Everyone saw a fat nose on thick legs. ’ Line are kept repeating itself.
This is the indication that the problems which the society looked down towards the girl are pretty severe because they cannot tolerate it. They are cannot bear the truth that this littlegirl are not quite woman enough on their sights. Those nose and legs are always the bold worst points for the society to accuse, and to show the littlegirl that woman should not have an appearance such hers. A line before that also draws the littlegirl submission against the society. A mere apology are not enough because the false power which applied by society is a must rule for the littlegirl to obey.
This all are caused by the position of littlegirl which make her cannot voice her heart. To prove that she is inferior against them who hold the knowledge to dominate every insight of the littlegirl. Thus, practicing the power relation towards the defenseless littlegirl. But the littlegirl are not a failure as her society has accused. The very first lines on second stanza, especially the line ‘She was healthy, tested intelligent, possessed strong arms and back,’ are indicated that she has everything that human existence could muster.
Every aspects of her life are the things that needed to actively blend into every mantle of society. She was ‘tested intelligence’, she might offer a helps for teaching people in the future, or ‘possessed strong arms and back,’ to do some more harder works to accomplish such as an athlete or adventurer. She could do almost anything in the near future because ‘She was healthy. ’ From those proofs alone, she is the one of human woman who could do anything he would like. She has everything whether to be a socialist or liberalist individual with everything she has got.
But again, due to the repetitive use of ‘Everyone saw a fat nose on thick legs,’ those all positive aspects of the littlegirl are concealed within. The construction which applied by the society has hazed away those irrefutable prospects of hers. The first line of third stanza started with the deceitful construction to construct not only their way of thinking but also how women should act in normal way. To show the fitness, beauty, without any indication of lacking things as a woman. Synergistically with the Power/Knowledge relation, the aspects of woman’s construction also could be applied with Foucault’s Discipline and Punish.
In his Discipline and Punish, however, the eighteenth-nineteenth century transformation of the human sciences was explicitly set in the context of practices of discipline, surveillance, and constraint, which made possible new kinds of knowledge of human beings even as they created new forms of social control. Rouse, in his “Power/Knowledge”, directly stated that perhaps the most important transformation that Foucault described was in the scale and continuity of the exercise of power, which also involved much greater knowledge of detail.
Foucault was interested in the difference between massive but infrequent exercises of destructive force (public executions, military occupations, the violent suppression of insurrections) and the uninterrupted constraints imposed in practices of discipline and training: “It was a question not of treating the body, en masse, ‘wholesale,’ as if it were an indissociable unity, but of working it ‘retail,’ individually; of exercising upon it a subtle coercion, of obtaining holds upon it at the level of the mechanism itself — movements, gestures, attitudes, rapidity: an infinitesimal power over the active body. Other ways of exercising force can only coerce or destroy their target. Discipline and training can reconstruct it to produce new gestures, actions, habits and skills, and ultimately new kinds of people. “The human body was entering a machinery of power that explores it, breaks it down and rearranges it…. It defined how one may have a hold over others’ bodies, not only so that they may do what one wishes, but so that they may operate as one wishes, with the techniques, the speed and the efficiency that one determines. Thus discipline produces subjected and practiced bodies, “docile” bodies. (Rouse, 2005) ‘…So that they may operate as one wishes, with the techniques, the speed and the efficiency that one determines. ’ Rouse opinion regarding the Power and Discipline which applied to the girl by the society ‘breaks it down and and rearranges it…’ Since the littlegirl presented a Barbie doll, at that time precisely, she had been constructed and her identity had been arranged. When the girl feels the bigger role of her peers at school, the big construction of society had broke down her capacities as the girl who is capable in many departments as mentioned on the second stanza.
Then the society reconstructed it many times as in the beginning of the third stanza. She was advised to play coy, exhorted to come on hearty, exercise, diet, smile and wheedle. Everything that the society gives to her is the methods in how the society tried to constructed her into the way they should see a woman. ‘to play coy, exhorted to come on hearty, exercise, diet, smile and wheedle. ’ To live in submission and acted under the rule of them to be a perfect woman. The tragic ends show the break-free of the littlegirl from the clutch of Mass’ Construction.
Everything that she have to chose her own way of live has been manipulated, so to speak, constructed and rearranged. The way the girl ended her life is not the way for her having a choice in the end, but the act to show how the power of society are relentless and how little the choices for they who has under the oppression of it had had. BIBLIOGRAPHY 1. Rouse, Joseph, “Power/Knowledge” (2005). Division I Faculty Publications. Paper 34. http://wesscholar. wesleyan. edu/div1facpubs/34

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