“Girl” & Barbie Doll

Topics: Gender role, Woman, Gender Pages: 6 (2455 words) Published: October 29, 2008
In the past, women were always considered the subordinate gender that was expected to powder their nose and stay at home to be a homemaker. Even now, despite the movement to liberate women from stereotypical gender roles, women are still seen as the inferior gender that is discriminated against in society. As suggested by the popular Barbie doll created by Mattel, the idealized image of a woman in our patriarchal society is one who takes care of the home and is flawlessly beautiful with perfect skin, long legs, small waist, and slender figure. The Barbie doll is used as a tool for patriarchy in that it reinforces the notion that women should be domestic workers and maintain a feminine outer appearance. Also, patriarchal values affect girls starting at a young age as they unconsciously begin to believe that Barbie is what a woman should look and be like. With the appeal and popularity of this doll for the past several years, it is difficult to alter the notions of womanhood suggested by this doll. This implies that patriarchy is something we can not permanently overthrow because it is so deeply rooted in our society. In contrast, the short story “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid suggests that women are sentenced to patriarchy as a result of socially constructed gender stereotypes. She criticizes the idealized patriarchal norms and pressures which overshadow the lives of women. Starting early on in their childhood, little girls are explicitly exposed to the pressures and expectations of how they should live. As a result of gender stereotypes, young girls are brainwashed to believe that their role as a woman is a domestic homemaker and that they should always be kempt and maintain a feminine outer appearance. Kincaid ultimately criticizes how women and girls are trapped under a system of patriarchy that can not be erased. Concurrently, both the Barbie doll and “Girl” suggest that socially constructed gender stereotypes begin to affect girls early on in their life. Girls are taught to be feminine, and they grow up already exposed to the ideal standards they should fulfill as a woman. The Barbie doll and “Girl” also suggest that the notion of womanhood is characterized by gender stereotypes such as domesticity and a feminine outer appearance. Whether it is in the workforce or even at home, women are still plastered with the role of being a domestic worker. For example, a woman who works a fulltime job is still expected to go home and take care of her family. Women are expected to fulfill this socially constructed gender role, which eventually confines them under patriarchy. As a result, women are unable to hold equal jobs as men or gain the same respect as men in the workforce. Therefore, this suggests that women are considered the inferior gender, and our society is surrounded by patriarchal values, which are considered the norm. We are both consciously and unconsciously affected by these patriarchal notions, so this suggests that, despite the measures to overthrow this system of patriarchy, it is ultimately something that will still be a part of dominant culture. The popular Barbie doll presents a body image of a woman that is flawless and characterized by femininity, suggesting that this is the ideal body image of a woman. Barbie’s overall slender body with long legs, a small waist, and full chest is unrealistic, yet it is still viewed by society as the ideal body type. For example, the first impression of a woman who is tall and slender is more positive compared to a woman who is shorter and heavier. With this in mind, young girls become negatively influenced by the stereotypical body image presented by the Barbie doll. They begin to believe that as a woman, they must emulate Barbie’s image, so they long to have Barbie’s perfect complexion, smooth hair, and make-upped face. In relation to body image, the Barbie doll also presents an idealized image of a woman that is characterized by femininity. For example, Barbie is usually...

Cited: Kincaid, Jamaica. “Girl.” Dimensions of Culture 3: Imagination. Ed. Nancy Gilson, Cristin McVey, and Abraham Shragge. San Diego: University Readers, 2007. 485-86.
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