The poem’s ‘I am not that women’ by Kishwar Naheed and ‘women work’ by mayo Angelou show the struggles of two black women from different cultures. Compare and contrast the two women’s experiences.
The two poems ‘I am not that women’ by Kishwar Naheed and ‘Women Work’ by Mayo Angelou are two examples of how black women were treated in these days. The poems come from two different backgrounds but each have similarities and differences. In this essay I intend to compare and contrast the two poems to hopefully give a better understanding of the two poems, and show how the two women faced exploitation and oppression. The purpose of these poems is to highlight the lives and difficulties of women from other cultures and traditions. Poetry is the chosen medium for these two writers, it gave them a way to express there true feelings and opinions without the fear of getting abused for sharing them.
Mayo Angelou is a highly respected and educated black American who is writing about the daily struggle of a working class woman. Her ‘escape’ is her mind, her flight of fantasy, as she pleads to another women (mother nature) to release her.
Kishwar Naheed is also a highly educated, successful woman who takes on the customs and traditions of her Asian background. This poem ‘I am not that women’ tells of the difficulties that a particular women faces in her struggle against a male dominated society (patriarchal).
‘I am not that women’ is a poem by Kishwar Naheed, it displays the issues of discrimination against women and how men treated them. The title of this poem is a strong positive sentence ‘ I am not that women’ she (whether it be the poet or a made up women) is not the usual women who is treated harshly by men, she is the women who is going to stand up for the right of equal-ness! This gives the poem a bit of authority at the start.
The stanzas are not of any regular pattern, the first stanza consists of 6 lines where as some of them are run on lines.
The first stanza starts with ‘I am’ which Is repeated variously around the poem, this gives a strong voice across to give enthusiasm to ‘I am’ so the reader remembers this statement. It also gives the impression that this women is a person and she does exist, its stating a positive fact. ‘I am’ is followed by ‘selling you socks and shoes’ this is here to point out that she isn’t just here for the mans benefit, to be here just to get the mans shoes and socks for them but here for their own benefit, to enjoy themselves. This sentence is ended with a exclamation mark, this is used for effect to give the sense of a strong statement being made. Another strong statement that is used throughout the poem is ‘remember me’ this is again her plea to extinguish her existence. She is making herself the subject of this poem by always bringing herself into the topic ‘remember me’ and ‘I am’. This statement ‘remember me’ is followed by ‘I am the one you hid in your walls of stone’ suggesting that this man that the poem is aimed at is trapping her at home and making her do the house work. ‘not knowing that my voice cannot be smothered by stone’ although she is stuck in this house she will be heard no matter what and she makes the point of saying this.
‘I am’ is again used at the beginning of stanza 2 but in a different way. The difference is a positive statement where she is recognises that she is an individual who cannot be abused. Instead of stating that she is the women, she states she isn’t the women who was ‘crushed by custom and tradition’ This statement recognises that men can treat women in an appalling manner knowing full well that men have the right to treat women how they wish. The word ‘crushed’ is a very strong harsh verb, which shows the strengths of the oppression.
‘Custom and tradition’ is being introduced in this stanza ‘with the weight of custom and tradition’ she has no one or no where to turn to, the men in society can crush as every man does as it’s the custom and tradition to do so. This is another sign of entrapment and discrimination. The poet uses imagery in this stanza to again bring across the effects of this kind of treatment ‘that light cannot be hidden in darkness’ this is a metaphor of light against dark. Light is a representive of the light of knowledge showing that women will one day break out of this trap and see the potential they can reach. After this proclamation ‘remember me’ is repeated, another sign to draw attention to her plight, asking the men to remember her.
There is a use of sexual imagery that reflects the tension between being loved and being owned. The imagery of flowers ‘I am the one in whose lap you picked flowers and planted thorns and embers’ shows as she feels she has being picked, enjoyed for her beauty and thrown away. The word ‘chains’ in this sentence show how she is chained, locked in her house only there for the use of men. ‘Smother’ is another harsh verb that is used like ‘crushed’ in stanza one bringing the feeling of death and entrapment. She could feel claustrophobic, she is stuck in this house twenty four seven only for the enjoyment of the man. This stanza as well as others uses short sharp lines for effect, this is here to represent how abruptly she says this, how quick she wants to say this and forget about the hurt she is facing.
Repition again is used as an opening for stanza three with ‘I am’ This stanza is aimed at how she feels she is being bought and then sold off, how she feels dirty because of this. ‘Whom you bought and sold’ you can tell this women is educated by the language she uses in this sentence ‘whom’. ‘In the name of my own chastity’ this man has obviously used her for sex, took her virginity off her and then thrown it back in her face.
The value of virginity in Asian countries at this time was very strong. Women tended to keep there virginity until they were with the person they loved and wanted to spend the rest of there lives with, so being treated like this with a thing as precious as virginity has made this women so angry, made her feel like nothing, like dirt on the floor, but with all the trouble he’s causing her she gets back up to fight again ‘that I can walk on water when I am drowning’ Before this sentence she refers to the man as him not knowing that she is this strong that she can get back up when pushed down ‘not knowing’.
Stanza four is different to any of the other stanzas, the poet is now addressing a different man, her father. ‘I am the one you married off to get rid of a burden’ this tells us how she has being married off by her father so he doesn’t have the responsibilities of her, this was called dowry, where the father of a women paid a man to marry her. The word ‘burden’ is a common noun which is used to describe a thing, this women isn’t a thing though, she is a person with her own personality her own freedom, her own way of living.
The poet is always fighting with the thoughts of these men by using ‘I am not’ and ‘not knowing’ suggesting they don’t know what’s right and who she is. She uses ‘not knowing’ again ‘that a nation of captive minds cannot be free’ to suggest that this man and all other men are trapping these women and using them for indecent purposes.
Stanza 5 ends the poem but with a slight change at the end. The word ‘commodity’ is used at the beginning of this stanza to make out shes a thing that people trade in when they aren’t satisfied. ‘My chastity, my motherhood, my loyalty’ There is no love shown here, this women is only wanted for her pureness, her ability to make children and her loyalty as a wife. This line follows off with a referral to stanza 2 ‘now it is time for me to flower free’ this is stating she isn’t going to keep being used for something as precious as her pureness, she’s going to keep that special and keep it for someone who can treat it with the right respect. The perspective of the poem changes here with the use of alliteration and imagery of flowers, she is making a stand, setting her standards for the use of not just herself, but for women universal.
The last 3 lines of this stanza tell the audience how she is making her peace ‘the women on that poster, half-naked, selling socks and shoes’ she was that women who was bought and sold but now she is breaking free ‘no no I am not that women’ this is a strong positive ending making it feel triumphant. The punctuation used here is for effect to make the poem move.
The poem ‘Women Work’ by Mayo Angelou expresses a more personal point of view towards work and life where as in ‘ I am not that women’ Naheed is writing for ‘universal’ women in equality and Oppression that she sees from her own personal point of view. Mayo Angelou is writing from her own feelings, her own daily life and very narrow perspective.
The poem ‘Women Work’ by Mayo Angelou is about black women in rural living conditions and explains the work done by a woman. The poem starts with a tedious list of jobs using no punctuation to make the reading of the poem fast to reflect the pace of the day. This also show the types of work she has to do, including back breaking ones ‘the cane to cut’. This is a sing song effect to make this easy to read, as there is no time for detail with the amount of work she has to do, this stanza also includes rhyming couplets again to make it an easy read. The repetition of pro noun ‘I’ reinforces how much she has to do in a day. This builds up a feeling of repition, tediousness and routine.
The poet uses colloquial expressions to show nationality in this stanza with ‘I gotta clean up this hut’ this too shows nationality with the word ‘hut’. This stanza reveals quite a lot about the women and her daily life, but this stanza is different to the others.
The rhythm, structure and rhyme all change in stanza 2. The rhyme scheme is now ABCB, where instead off rhyming couplets we have the 2nd line rhyming with the 4th line. The rhythm changes as it goes a lot slower now, she is now describing what she wants not what she has to do. These changes are made when she begins to appeal for peace from routine, she wants this time to go slow that’s why the rhythm has changed and isn’t all fast like the first stanza.
This stanza and the following refer to nature ‘shine on me, sunshine rain on me , rain fall softly, dewdrops and cool my brow again’ She wants nature to cool her down to relax her, suggesting she is hot and bothered. She uses alliteration in her requests to bring across the amount of relaxment she wishes for.
It’s the same in the next three stanzas, each uses a part of nature to represent the feeling of harmony she wants. Stanza 3 uses the imagery of wind with ‘storm, blow me from here with your fiercest wind let me float across the sky ’til I can rest again’ this shows an imagery of death with ‘let me float across the sky ’til I can rest again’, she doesn’t want the hassle anymore of work she wants to rest and be peaceful without the stress of work.
The next stanza is imagery of ice and snowflakes ‘ fall gently, snowflakes cover me with white cold icy kisses and let me rest tonight’ this also again has imagery of death with ‘cold icy kisses’ suggesting the kiss of death put her to sleep again so she doesn’t have to suffer with the overload of work any more. Nature is her friend, this is a positive image of the snow ‘kisses’ this is a repeated request for coolness. Alliteration is used to emphaysis this request for coolness. Cold icy kisses, almost a sadness in her words. These lines show she craves relaxation.
The last verse another list of natural elements ‘sun, rain, curving sky mountain, oceans, leaf and stone star shine, moon glow’ this lists the natural elements. Life is just a routine a list of chores to do. Everyday is structured by the harsh reality of life. Very poetic language is used in its appeal, she looks to nature to ease her life. This is dreamlike vision. The only thing she can turn to is nature ‘ you’re all that I can call my own’ she cannot call anything her own as she posses nothing but as the weather is neutral she can call it her own as it’s the only thing not giving her any stress!
I have analysed these two poems and found a lot of similarities and differences between them both. Both poems come from different backgrounds and even though they are aimed at the same type of problem they come from very different perspectives. ‘Women Work’ is a more personal point of view where as ‘I am not that women’ is writing for universal women and sticking up for the rights of others. The tone of both poems is very different as well ‘I am not that women’ is a more strong voice with attitude and harshness whereas ‘Women Work’ is more mellow but frustrated, this women is giving feelings of her daily lifestyle and the sadness she is being put through, she gives wishes as well, things she wants to feel.
Both of these poems included metaphors, repition and alliteration for effect of feeling emotions. ‘Women Work’ uses rhyming couplets and a ABCB rhyme scheme, which is not used in ‘I am not that women’, this poem goes without rhyme. The stanza length varies in each poem but ‘Women Work’ has a regular pattern after stanza one with ABCB.
I like theses two poems, I prefer ‘I am not that women’ as it is more aggressive while ‘Women Work’ relaxes near the middle and doesn’t show as much anger towards the men of society.
Times have changed in the last 60 years, Women are now not as discriminated as they used to be, men have more respect for them. It is to poets like Mayo Angelou and Kishwar Naheed that give us a sense of how women were treated and how times have changed for the better.