Gender Issues In Poetry

Literature / April 23, 2015 / No Comments /
Paper dealing with issues such as stereotypical “beauty” of women, “submissive woman” vs “dominant male”, and women as housewives in poems written in the 50’s and 60’s.

“In poetry during the late fifties and early sixties, women were often stereotypically supposed to be beautiful. One in particular entitled “Barbie Doll,” by Marge Piercy, shows society’sconcern with beauty. The poem is about a young woman who was told as a girl that she had a `fat nose` and `thick legs`. The young woman is smart, educated, and strong, yet she does not meet the `ideals` of the beautiful woman. Society in pre-feminist times stereotyped beauty as being slender, and having a small nose, blonde hair, and blue eyes. Since she does not have these `ideal` features the young woman chooses death, by cutting off her nose and legs. This poem suggests the destructiveness of society’s standards of female beauty on those who do not “fit” the criteria. Piercy’s second stanza `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 – (ll.7-11) implies the woman had numerous good qualities and traits for a man, yet because she did not possess ideal female qualities, her life was filled with apologies and attempts to become physically attractive. Lines 20 and 21, `dressed in pink and white nightie. / Doesn’t she look pretty”…,? suggest the woman’s femininity was reinstated after her death. Although now she may be accepted by society, with her `turned up putty nose,` these standards have caused her a painful death. In the last line of the poem, `To every woman a happy ending,` Piercy uses irony to show the reader the woman’s unhappiness and the tragedy of her life. It is ironic that the author uses these words because the young woman lived her life in embarrassment and without satisfaction.”

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