A Study Of Feminist Literature English Literature Essay


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Feminism is not just a word to defend women's rights and be anti-men, it is more than that. Feminism refers to movements aimed at founding and demanding equal political, economic, and social rights and equal opportunities for women as men. Its concepts overlap with those of women's rights. A Feminist person can be either a man or a woman.

The movement and its three waves were led by middle-class white women from Western Europe and Latin America, they were the women who were from the right class that could see the suffering of other women, as they weren't from the low class who were struggling in work all the time just to support their family and bring them food, and they weren't also the women from the aristocratic class who did nothing but attending parties and knew nothing about what was happening in the real world.

Feminism is a chance to liberate both men and women, it liberates men by making them think outside the box and women as equal individuals rather than dolls who stay at home, cook, bring up children and waiting for any appreciation from the husbands. And when it comes in liberating women, it helps every woman to stand up and refuse anything that is against her principals that might make her feel below men.

When women achieved a progress in calling for their rights and began to emerge as great writers, they wrote poetry according a male's point of view like Virginia Wolf. There is no one moment when the feminist poetry movement began; rather, women wrote about their experiences and entered into a dialogue with society over many years before the 1960s. Feminist poetry was influenced by social change, but also by poets such as Emily Dickinson.

feminists do not work to control men, nor do they hate men, but work for men and women to have equal rights. men may be feminists, too, (and many are) if they wish to support women's rights.

In other words, feminism in moving the focus from male to female experience, it moves the stereotyped women from marginality to centrality, and that what is going to be discussed in the next few pages; feminism in poetry , its characteristics and the application on the poem "phenomenal woman" by the feminist Maya Angelou.

According to Wikipedia.com, Maya Angelou born Marguerite Ann Johnson on April 4, 1928) is an American autobiographer and poet who has been called America's most visible black female autobiographer. She is best known for her series of six autobiographical volumes, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first and most highly acclaimed, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), tells of her first seventeen years. It brought her international recognition, and was nominated for a National Book Award. She has been awarded over 30 honorary degrees and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her 1971 volume of poetry, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Diiie.

Angelou was a member of the Harlem Writers Guild in the late 1950s, was active in the Civil Rights movement. Since 1991, she has taught at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina where she holds the first lifetime Reynolds Professorship of American Studies.

Since the 1990s she has made around eighty appearances a year on the lecture circuit. In 1993, Angelou recited her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at President Bill Clinton's inauguration, the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy's inauguration in 1961. In 1995, she was recognized for having the longest-running record (two years) on The New York Times Paperback Nonfiction Bestseller List. Angelou was influenced by William Shakespeare during her early life in writing. In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou states that she "met and fell in love with" Shakespeare as a child.

Phenomenal woman was first published in 1978; it is an anthem of woman's strength in their own womanhood. What made Maya Angelou a significant feminist poet is that, she suffered during her childhood as she was raped by her mother's friend.

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies

I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size

But when I start to tell them

They think I'm telling lies.

I say,

It's in the reach of my arms

The span of my hips,

The stride of my step,

The curl of my lips.

I'm a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That's me.

I walk into a room

Just as cool as you please,

And to a man,

The fellows stand or

Fall down on their knees.

Then they swarm around me,

A hive of honey bees.

I say,

It's the fire in my eyes

And the flash of my teeth,

The swing of my waist,

And the joy in my feet.

I'm a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That's me.

Men themselves have wondered

What they see in me.

They try so much

But they can't touch

My inner mystery.

When I try to show them,

They say they still can't see.

I say

It's in the arch of my back,

The sun of my smile,

The ride of my breasts,

The grace of my style.

I'm a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That's me.

Now you understand

Just why my head's not bowed.

I don't shout or jump about

Or have to talk real loud.

When you see me passing

It ought to make you proud.

I say,

It's in the click of my heels,

The bend of my hair,

The palm of my hand,

The need of my care,

'Cause I'm a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That's me.

Feminist literature is identified by the many characteristics of the feminist movement. Authors of feminist literature are known to understand and explain the difference between sex and gender

Women in literature of the feminist nature are always featured as the protagonists who often don't willingly accept the traditional role of women as decided by society. They are ready to make their own decisions, to express this choice of personal decision-making, and are ready to deal with the consequences of these choices, actions, and decisions. Though a daughter, a mother, a sister, or a wife, any piece of feminist literature first deals with a woman as a woman. It is not these relationships, roles, or stereotypes that give these female characters in literature their identity. Their identity is defined by their choices and their beliefs which are then associated with these roles. It is important to note, that, not all works of feminist literature have happy endings, both for the character, and for the author of the work. Women have been ostracized by society for openly demanding equality, and have had to face several negative consequences of their decision to go against the waves.

For Maya Angelou, a phenomenal woman is a female who knows herself well. The phenomenal woman is honest with herself and people around her, and is proud enough to show the world who she really is. The phenomenal woman is bold enough to release herself from the domestic perception of society. Angelou has set very striking ways to describe the phenomenal woman. Angelou describes her as self-confident, honest, sincere, mysterious, and silent although her own curves can be tempting.

Knowing her capabilities as a woman makes her very attractive to men despite most people's conventional idea that beautiful women are physically incapable of doing anything.

A woman is considered phenomenal just for being herself in a society, because women were stereotyped and put under expectations that they are weaker than men.

But on the right hand, it is acceptable that men can be themselves and act freely even in a bad way that contradicts with the morals of the society, starting from literature to everyday action. Men can even write about the sexual experiences of people openly. However, it is hard for a woman to express herself as openly because society expects from her to be submissive and obedient. It takes guts for a woman to say what and how she feels even about the basic things that are common to man and woman.

Angelou's Phenomenal Woman poses a question mark, as to what lends her so much of confidence, She quips with unflinching self-assurance that she may not be her cute in the conventional sense. Nor does her figure challenge one of a fashion model. People fail to believe her as she reiterates that her x-factor lies in something beyond this. The work 'secret' also implies the intriguing element in her. She asserts with resilience that it is in "the reach of her arms"-her ability to grasp things at her will. It lies within the span of her hips -her buoyancy. It also lies within the stride of her step-the way she carries herself around. The curl of her lips -her eloquence. And it all lies predominantly in her essence because:

I'm a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That's me.

She can walk into a room as she is well aware of her self-worth. Her attitude drives men to their knees; and even makes them collect around her like bees. Her usage of the word 'a hive of bees' sets her uniqueness. It appears in the passion of her eyes, the intense look. It lies in the flash of her teeth; she remains a mystery to the men as she teases them. The poet exposes her self-assurance, her charming rhythm and style, and the inner power of her femininity. Rather than the stereotyped figure of a woman that each stanza closes with the words: "I'm a woman / phenomenally. / Phenomenal woman, / that's me."

Try as they can, they cannot touch the fascinating element in her. Though she tries to show the same to them, they say that it still opposes them and is a 'phenomenon' that they cannot observe through the senses of opinion. This is indeed what reduces her phenomenal; as she repeats with the end. She asserts:

It's in the arch of my back,

The sun of my smile,

The ride of my breasts,

The grace of my style.

She focuses on her several features like talking about her curve, shape and expression, sensual movement, and the grace of her style.

Her personality is revealed in the beat of her through the click of her heels, the warmth she displays through the palm of her hand and the certain care. These are the essential core of a woman:


Phenomenal woman,

That's me.

The theme of phenomenal woman is how an average woman is still beautiful because of the way she sees herself. It's not because she looks or walks like a model, it's because she has enormous confidence and she has her head high so when she walks in front of people, they will can that she is confident, graceful, and that she won't let anything or anyone bring down her pride in life. This is why she is so phenomenal.


This poem is about power of women. You can find that there is only one stanza about being powerful with men; and there are 3 stanzas just about being a woman. It's stupid to think that women only care about being a certain way for men. Women spend more time trying to impress other women than trying to impress men; that's because women spend most of their time comparing themselves to other women. The power comes from her ability to be powerful because she is self-assured. The physical things she lists are powerful just because she's a woman, that's what's so phenomenal, but the fact that she knows and expresses that shows that she's confident. Her steps, her arms, the palm of her hand, walking "just as cool as you please" are powerful because they exude confidence and pride in being a woman. I've known some women who aren't pretty, or very nice, or overly interesting or entertaining, and they have men swarming them. Why? Because these women don't spend their time trying to exist for men, they just have pride and confidence in the great simplicity of themselves. A phenomenal woman is one who sees herself as phenomenal, and lets it seep from her pores.

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