An Analysis of Self-Love and Pride in Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou

Society, media and fashion industries surrounding us are constantly suffocating women to change their appearances to fit into what is known as the perfect woman. Girls are no longer there genuine selves but rather living in the skin of what the world has created for them. What Mary Angelou is trying to portray in her poem Phenomenal. Woman is that we should take pride in all the amazing features we have by accepting and loving our self-image as being a female alone, is an amazing thing.

Through her use of positive direction, imagery and self-example, she is letting women know that they do not have to change themselves to be the phenomenal women they truly are. Throughout this entire poem, Mary Angelou is using a variety of self-examples to demonstrate the pride and love she has for her body. Unlike other poems, Phenomenal | Women is neither based on fiction, another's life, nor has it a hidden meaning - it has the clear denotation of the way Mary Angelou and others see her body.

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For instance, at the beginning of the poem, she confesses “I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size.” (Line 2), which implies that Mary Angelou's figure is not what is known as the perfect body yet, she is not afraid to admit to so - which most women are. In addition, this quote, as well as the entire poem, is written in the first person. The author has purposely written in such way to use herself as an example so that the women reading this poem may relate to the way she is describing herself and acknowledge the pride she has that comes with it.

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In fact, the lines "Phenomenal woman, that's me." (Lines 12, 13) on which the title of the poem is based on, states the pride Mary A. takes in being the female she is. What she is saying is that she accepts the amazing girl she is. There is nothing wrong with being what society may not accept as long as you accept yourself and the courageous image you have created.

One of the many literary devices found in Phenomenal Woman is imagery. The use of imagery in this poem has a very precise function of creating a story of which a woman has an immense amount of confidence in herself. In her lines “I walk into a room, just as cool as you please and to a man, the fellows stand or fall down to their knees then they swarm around me, a hive of honey bees.” (lines 14,15,16,17,18,19,20), are told as a story to have a clear image in our minds of how men act around Mary Angelou- although she may not be the queen bee, men still swarm around her inner beauty. In spite of Miss Angelou's use of imagery in Phenomenal Women, she uses it in a very explicit way. What she does so that the audience may have their own sight on her poem is; while she is describing herself, she is using vague words such as “The span of my hips, the stride of my step, the curl of my lip." (Lines 7, 8, 9) to let your creative mind interpret the meaning of those characteristics. Wither "the span of my hips" (line 7) means wide or small, Mary Angelou is letting the reader become the author. Often times when a poem is written in such ways, the reader chooses to use words that create an image they can relate to and that describes themselves.

Through the use of Mary Angelou's language flow, she is speaking to women by giving them positive direction, specifically in the lines “now you understand just why my heads not bowed” (line 47, 48) where the use of the word "you" is distinctively mentioning that she is not only telling a story, but also explaining the gratification she has to someone else, namely a woman. The meaning of this stanza (4th) is to explain that unlike most girls, she is not unhappy with her body nor does she not pry for attention and that infact this should be making women proud. What she is intending for the reader to comprehend is that being unconfident and desperate is not attractive to men or women rather, being respectful towards yourself is. The way she has written the line “I'm a woman, phenomenally" (lines 10, 11, 27, 28, 43, 44) emphasizes not only that she is a phenomenal woman, but also that the fact that she is one, is phenomenal. This sentence is repeated four times throughout this poem to emphasize on the meaning and importance of this lesson. Although it may sound repetitive to some, her language flow that comes with it is giving positive direction to women to let them know they are truly amazing creations.

To conclude, with the help of positive direction and language flow, imagery as well as using herself as an example, she successfully let women know that the feature they initially have are better than the ones they change. Once pride and confidence come with them, the true woman you are comes out, and that, is what is phenomenal.

Updated: Feb 12, 2022
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An Analysis of Self-Love and Pride in Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou. (2022, Feb 12). Retrieved from

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