To Want and Want Not: Manifestations of Desire in "Barbie-Q" by Sandra Cisneros and "The Couch" by Fatima Hamad Al Mazrouei

Doris Hambuch


"Although “Barbie-Q” (1991) by Chicana Sandra Cisneros and “The Couch” (2010) by Emirati Fatima H. Al Mazrouei originate in very different cultural contexts, these two texts have more in common than their brevity and poetic style, and it is their similarities that make them ideal candidates for a comparative analysis. Both short stories are told by female narrators who desire the object identified in the title of each story, and the items of their desire carry significant symbolic value to each respective story. Both stories offer an implicit critique of (post)modern consumerism, and both also weave this critique into a context of female body image and the beauty myth manifested in Naomi Wolf’s 1991 book of the same title. Departing from a philosophical understanding of “desire,” and attempting to encourage a construc- tive dialogue between so-called “Western” and non-Western feminist discourse, this paper accounts for the implications of diverse representations of female desire for their contrasting cultural contexts. It aims to highlight ways in which increasingly urgent transcultural or cosmopolitan feminist discourse could function more fruitfully."

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