“Barbie Manifesto” by Alison Luterman

Alison Luterman


I’m gonna see the Barbie movie tonight
because I had a feminist mother who didn’t buy us Barbies
and when I said I wanted to be a nurse, she said why don’t you be a doctor,
but I really did want to be a nurse
because of the perky hats they got to wear,
bobby-pinned to their sleek, shiny hair,
and I’m going to wear pink to the Barbie movie,
hot pink, the color of cheap candy,
like the chalky sugar cigarettes we pretended to smoke
with their fake red tips,
and I’m going to squeal like a cheerleader on Ecstasy,
I’m going to be silly and girly and super excited,
and all the things you were never supposed to be,
because doing anything like a girl–running,
or throwing, or thinking or writing or talking,
is the worst insult—
an icky, sticky, oozing, bleeding, shrill, smelly girlie-girl.
It means you’re not smart, or cool.
You cry when they throw footballs at your chest
which my boyfriend did in high school
because he wanted to help me toughen up.
It means you’ll be laughed at and dismissed,
so I’ve acted serious and intelligent
and tough for about a thousand years, just to prove them all wrong,
but now I’m begging to be dismissed—please! Dismiss me,
so I can lounge by the pool in a bright pink bikini
while some Ken bring me drinks with little umbrellas.
Because I’m tired of proving my point.
I don’t remember what my point is anyway,
or the point of this whole thing in the first place—
men, women, who cares? I just want to hide under the bed
with my best friend and a flashlight, constructing secret worlds
we can live in forever. I want to grow old on Planet Girl,
painting each of my stubby fingernails a different color of neon.
I have pretended I sprang fully-grown
from the forehead of my father, bristling with armor.
I have worn olive drab and camouflaged the delight I once took
in smearing myself with Vaseline and admiring my new little breast-buds
in the midnight mirror. I have done all the right things,
I have feigned interest in what bored me,
I have feigned politeness. I have pretended that my inner organs
are not all glistening pink, my heart and my liver and my lungs.
Pink as your own tongue, or the pads of your feet, or your palms.

from Poets Respond
July 23, 2023


Alison Luterman: “Like so many women of my generation, I’ve wrestled with the contradictions of who I’m supposed to be, and who I am, what I’m supposed to enjoy, and what I actually do like. I think the Barbie movie is arriving in our world at a great time for all of us, men and women, to start looking at these questions in a new, playful way.” (web)

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