A shocking study from CBC News revealed: around 97% of women have negative thoughts about themselves at least once a day (CBS News). The problem of negative body issues is not a new dilemma and has been around for some time. The poem Barbie Doll written by Marge Piercy explores this issue and makes a connection between the negative body issues in relation to society.
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In order to fully comprehend and analyze the poem rhetorically, Doug Down’s article, Rhetoric: Making Sense of Human Interaction and Meaning-Making is used to draw the connections and clearly define what Piercy is trying to show. The poem exposed the atrocities that women experienced in society in order to create changes for the way women looked and felt about themselves.
The poem demonstrates the unrealistic expectations placed on girls starting from a young age. As the girl in the poem is followed from birth to death, it is evident that society puts her down because of her body and looks. After society has beaten her down for so long she commits suicide, and her funeral is the first and the last time anyone views her as beautiful, which was her only goal. In order for the audience to not only understand the poem, but feel the emotional aspect, Piercy used mythos. According to the article by Downs, mythos is, a way to associate the problem and solution they’re advocating with their reviewers’ existing knowledge (472-473). Within the text, this element is evident in order to make the argument stronger and allow the audience to make connections with the girl depicted. Lines 17-18 state, So she cut off her nose and her legs and offered them up (Piercy). This appeal is used during the girl’s death to display what is happening and how it conflicts with values. The audience is able to relate to her story and see how society wore her down and she could not handle the pressures any longer. The time period that this poem was published in allowed for people to view society in a new light.
Barbie Doll allowed for an advance in the way women thought about themselves as it was published in 1971, during the second wave of feminism. It was different from previous movements as it was focused on a variety of issues, but mainly on family life and women’s sexuality (Burkett). Women were beginning to question their place within society and wanted expanded roles. It was a time when new opinions were accepted and not immediately dismissed. Piercy’s educational and feminist background allowed her to take an active role in the movement with the publication of Barbie Doll. From a young age, Piercy was inspired to read from her mother allowing her to have a strong writing and reading background (McManus).
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