Fromthe essay, learning to be gendered by Eckert and Mc Connell, it isclear that “we are conditioned in a certain way from the time ourparents discover about our biological sexes” (737). Is it a boy ora girl? This is the first question people ask. From that moment weare born, whether male or female, we are assigned a pronoun. Ourparents call us “baby boy” or “baby girl." Even someparticular colors are said to be associated with either a male or afemale. For instance, once the sex of the child is known the nurserywill be painted black or pink. The authors state that “thedichotomy of male and female is the ground upon which we buildourselves from the moment we are born” (Eckert and McConnell, 737).Focusing on Cisneros, the author of Barbie-Q, “we are introduced totwo little girls with an obsession of Barbie dolls” (184). They areonly interested in playing with their toys even though they are inbad shape. Barbie dolls are lovely and expensive, but their parentscannot afford them due to their low economic income. These girls aresatisfied with the Barbie dolls. However, as they grow up the societywill still have the perception of not being pretty if you are not aBarbie. From the story, it is clear thatgrowing up for these girls was tough since they were adopting a newcultural living in the city. They are hopeful and believe that lifewould be fair enough to grant them a better future. For instance,“Barbie dolls are used as a dichotomy for girls when they aregrowing up” (Eckert and McConnell, 737). This shows that thesociety expects women to be strong enough to put up with thehardships they encounter in life.
Thelittle girls own fire damaged Barbie dolls that are flawed since thewarehouse at Halstad Street caught fire. Thus, these two little girlsown Barbie dolls from the fact that there was a sale of these toysfrom the burnt warehouse. The author narrates that “the littlegirls’ Barbie dolls were damaged in a way” (Cisneros, 184).Nevertheless, she reveals the poor condition these girls were livingin and their parents could not afford to buy a new outfit for theirBarbie dolls when they required one. She describes a dress that wasinvented from an old sock which looks fancy.
Thisshows that the two girls are on a quest of achieving the best thingswhile changing the perception of how women are viewed in the society.Thus, girls try to define themselves through the dolls. The authorfocuses more on the physical appearance of Barbie to emphasize thegirls’ outlook. Interestingly, babies rely on adults to “do”gender for them. There exists a vicious cycle in this society inwhich the girls learn about as they grow up. They are supposed todress, act, and talk like other females. For instance, “if a babycry sounded more aggressive, the infant was thought to be a baby boy”(Eckert and McConnell, 739). Hence, the society portrays woman asbeing perfect whereas in reality, they have imperfections but theyare still loved and appreciated.
A Barbie doll has not only been used to show modern women`s moralitybut also the love for boyfriends in this context. This image of boysinculcated in the little girl`s minds depicts male`s dominance in thesociety and also their place in girl`s world of toys. Eckert andMcConnell state that “males and females are treated differentlyfrom the time their sex is known. They describe how caretakers at adaycare responded when girls babbled and gestured. Such treatmentlater showed that girls tend to be more talkative than boys” (742).This also portrays women overdependence on male figures, which thesociety views as unavoidable.
Theauthor uses Barbie “as a symbolic object on focusing on feminism inan ideal society that is mostly possessed by women and men”(Cisneros, 184). Barbie dolls were meant for the girls. In theirchildhood, they tend to copy Barbie because she is perfect in everyway. She also recognizes the fact that class distinction is takingshape in this society as Barbie is deemed to be an expensive toy andthe girls narrating the story is from a poor background. This isevident in the story since she states that “the parents could notafford to buy new Barbie outfits and thus the little girls had todress the Barbie with rags” (Cisneros 184).
Cisnerosbrings out “different characters struggling in what it takes to bea woman” (184). She explores standards and norms to which women areheld responsible and how the society expects them to carry outthemselves. For instance, we are first introduced to two little girlswho own Barbies with different features. One of the girls describesher Barbie as having "mean eyes" (Cisneros, 184). Why woulda child possess a Barbie doll with mean eyes? The "mean eyes"in this scenario can be used to depict two types of classes that areevident in the story: upper class and lower class. The dominant groupshows a cold -shoulder on the other group hence the little girl mayfeel exposed to these looks.
Cisnerosuses Barbie “as a symbol to represent perfect women” (184).However, the little girl finds damaged Barbie representing imperfectwomen who strive to be perfect by all means. Given that she shops ata flea market and she is poor, the girls are happy since they acquirenew dolls. However, the dolls are brand “new” since they aresoaked in water and smell like smoke. Also, the dolls were notpacked. Hence, Sandra brings out the society perception of women. Shealso demonstrates how the society wants women to cover up what isunacceptable in the eyes of the public. For instance, the authordescribes Barbie`s new cousin Francie who has real eyelashes, and inevery form that “she is perfect” (Cisneros, 185). She continuesto show how the society expects women to cover up what is not rightin the eyes of the public. On a similar line, focusing on Geraldand Cathy, “thesociety expects women to be perfect in every way” (738).
Interestingly,the author narrates about an invisible "Ken" (Cisneros,185) bringing in perspective the absence of male figures in thisculture. Hence that, women tend to have incomplete existence withoutmale figures in their lives. Sandra again narrates the society asbeing stereotyped regarding Barbie quarrel with a boyfriend.
Theauthor clearly elaborates in this story the image perceived by thecommunity on the status of women. By using Barbie, Cisnerosdemonstrates the carnal nature that perfect women are supposed topossess. In reality, women are not like this. Not every woman isrich, and no one is perfect. Hence, they are different and come indifferent forms, some being tall or short, poor or rich, etc. Thestory Barbie-Q “very well could have been her way of expressing thehardships she had to overcome from society” (Eckert and McConnell,741).
Fromthis story, it is clear that the author tries to analyze issuessurrounding the women in the modern day society.
PenelopeEckert and Sally McConnell-Ginet. “Learningto Be Gendered.” Cambridge:Cambridge University Press, 2010. Print.
Gerald Graff, Cathy Birkenstein, TheySay / I Say.RussellDurst.3rdEd. New York City: W.W.Norton Company Inc., 2015.736-743.Print
Cisneros,Sandra. WomanHollering Creek, And Other Stories.New York: Random House, 2010. Print.