Feminism in Poetry Essay
Feminism in Poetry
All women have a place. That is barefoot, pregnant, and chained to the stove. Ideas like this are what started the feminist movement. Women desired to be judged by their worth as a person rather than their physical appearance or biological factors. Women sought out social, economic, and political equality. Many women wanted to do their part to support the cause. Some of the most notable influences of the feminist movement were poets such as Sylvia Plath, Lucille Clifton and Anne Sexton. Through their poems, the truth was exposed. This encouraged women everywhere to demand justice and equality.
Although there are many feminist themes poets can write about, Sylvia Plath writes of male domination. In her poetry, all men appear to be the opposing force that keeps women from living a happy life. For example, in her poem “Daddy”, Plath exploits her father as being a fascist Nazi. Much like the Nazi, a fascist is known for being controlling with the power to oppress societies. Plath felt like a “Jew” amongst her Nazi father (40). However, towards the end of the poem, the representation of Plath’s father and husband (or all men) go from Nazis to “Vampires” (72).
It is clear that in this change of metaphor that Plath went from living the terrors of a male dominant society to living with the undead terrors of her memories. In the same way, Plath’s poem “Lady Lazarus” conveys the message of male dominance. For example, the speaker states that “I am your opus, I am your valuable” it seems the woman in the poem feels as if she is a possession to men. However, in the final stanza she informs “Herr God, Herr Lucifer” to “beware” because “Out of the ash I will rise and I eat men like air” (79-84). The woman rises from the ashes like a phoenix, stronger and with a new sense of empowerment.
It is as if men mean nothing and hold no more significance in her life. Plath uses these powerful poems to make a clear position in the feminist movement against the social inequalities that women faced in their everyday lives. Next, the feminist movement was partially about being proud of being a woman. Lucille Clifton, a strong, blunt woman presents such feminist themes. Clifton asserts her feminist ideas in the form of a woman’s body. In her poem “Homage to My Hips”, a person’s first impression might be of a woman proud of her full figure. However, “hips” in this poem are a symbol of the strength and life that women possess.
Therefore, when she says “hips”, she is speaking for all the women. For instance, Clifton points out that: “These hips are big hips; they need space to move around in. They don’t fit into petty places. These are free hips. ” (1-6). Undoubtedly, Clifton believes that women should have the same opportunities as men. If they are limited by their actions, there is no room for them to thrive. In the same way, Clifton illustrates her feminist views through the woman’s body in her poem “Wishes for Sons”. The poem directed toward men, talks specifically about the biological factors of a woman.
Clifton wishes men to experience menstruation, the cramps, hot flashes, and the blood clots. Clifton wishes “them one week early and wearing a white skirt” (5-6). Indeed, she wants men to experience the embarrassments and fears a woman faces. Equally important, she wishes for men to experience the arrogance of gynecologists, “not unlike themselves” (18). Truly, Clifton’s brusqueness brings a sense of truth. In this poem, Clifton asks the age old question, why are males considered the stronger ones? Women are strong and can endure great pain that a man would collapse under.
Lucille Clifton is one of the most powerful feminist poets, because she is direct and not afraid to speak her mind. Through her poetry, she empowers women to stand up and be strong. Finally, Anne Sexton is known more for her confessional poetry. However, her support of the feminist movement is evident throughout her poems. In her poem “Little Girl, My String Bean, My Lovely Woman”, Sexton praises and gives her advice to her daughter. Before the feminist movement, having a daughter was not celebrated. This poem is evidence that Sexton stepped out of the social norm and took one step closer to liberation of all women.
Sexton writes of “…old wives speaking of womanhood. I remember that I heard nothing myself. I was alone. I waited like a target. ” (35-38) Again, this is referring to how no one ever talked about the challenges of womanhood. By making aware of these challenges, Sexton stood alone and took the criticisms of society. Furthermore, Sexton tells her daughter that her “bones are lovely” (52). Like many girls that are coming of age, they view themselves through the eyes of society or men. Sexton wanted to tell her “before they enter” (50).
In the final stanza, Sexton tells her daughter that if she is “sure of yourself” she “will strike fire, that new thing” (95-98). To summarize, if her daughter stays true to herself as a woman, she will succeed in her new life. Because Sexton ties her intimate life in with her poetry, it makes the message of feminism even more meaningful. In conclusion, there are the many sides to feminism. Plath exposed a more daring approach. She wrote of the role of women in a male dominated society and the constant struggle of woman versus man. On the other hand, Clifton has a more passive but straightforward approach.
She spoke of matters that women then were too embarrassed to speak of. This is why she might have felt she had to be the voice for all women. Her bold poetry made her one of the most popular poets of the feminist movement. Lastly, because she was a confessional poet, Sexton’s intertwined her feminist views with her personal life. This method made her feminist message more meaningful and passionate. Many women, along with these popular poets set out to change the course of history. They strived for equality and fought hard to obtain it. It would be in vain if women today did not take advantage of the rights that they struggled to achieve.