The short story Barbie-Q written by Sandra Cisneros highlights the idea that we are exposed to societies pressure on appearance at such a young age. In this story, Cisneros displays the standards that women are held up to, and the standards that they create for themselves. As women, we are convinced that beautiful means that we must wear a size zero, have long legs, soft skin with no blemishes and a pearly white smile. Of course you have to have the nice clothes, gigantic house, expensive car, and the most appealing boyfriend. Naturally, we care about what others think of us, therefore we strive to meet their standards or we feel the need to conform to certain ideals.
Cisneros introduces two young characters and their dolls:
Yours, “Red Flair”, sophisticated A-line coatdress with a Jackie Kennedy pillbox hat, white gloves, handbag, and heels included. Mine, “Solo in the Spotlight,” evening elegance in black glitter strapless gown with a puffy skirt at the bottom like a mermaid tail, formal-length gloves, pink-chiffon scarf, and mike included. (183)
In this description of the dolls, we are shown the image of the slim and perfect girl, with the perfect life and the perfect friends. These dolls appear to be rich and stylish, wearing the best clothes and have on the best accessories. It is obvious from the description that the young character dreams she could have all the possessions that her Barbie doll has, naming and describing every piece of clothing from head to toe. The young girl is walking through the flea market and as she describes each Barbie’s outfit, she dreams of herself not only in the fancy ensemble but in the lifestyle of that Barbie also. We learn early on in the story that these young girls are not very wealthy, “But that is all we can afford, except one extra outfit a piece”(184). These girls also had to wait until Christmas, not even for a new doll, but for a new outfit: “Because we don’t have the money for a stupid looking boy doll when we’d both rather ask for a new Barbie outfit next Christmas”(184). This emphasizes that these girls had to make due with what they had and appreciate it for what it is. This also gives incentive for the young girl to dream of having the stylish clothes and the glamorous lifestyle that Barbie has, because it allows her to escape the world she knows.
The flea market the girls were walking through was selling toys, but that morning, the toys were “…damaged with water and smelling of smoke. Because a big toy warehouse on Halsted Street burned down yesterday…”(184) These girls took this as their chance to finally collect more Barbie dolls. The girls don’t mind what the Barbie looks like anymore; they decide to look past the flaws that these Barbie dolls received. Cisneros ends the story:
So what if our Barbies smell like smoke when you hold them up to your nose even after you wash and wash and wash them. And if the prettiest doll, Barbie’s MOD’ern cousin Francie with real eyelashes, eyelash brush included, has a left foot that’s melted a little –so? If you dress her in her new “Prom Pinks” outfit, satin splendor with matching coat, gold belt, clutch, and hair bow included, so long as you don’t lift her dress, right? –who’s to know?(184)
These girls realize their dolls may have their imperfections but they accept their flaws because the dolls, like women, are still loved and cherished. This short story brings up the lesson that beauty is not based on the outside but what is on the inside. The young girls know of their Barbie has flaws yet they still love them and play with them.