The poem”I am not that woman” exemplifies the stereotyping of women in a patriarchal society .As she is limited to the domestic domain and household chores, she iterates that her reputation is not limited to selling socks and shoes, for she too possess an intellect .The speaker asserts that she possesses an individuality that the man tries to conceal in walls of stone, while he wandered around free as the breeze. The speaker claims that he can only imprison her physical being and not her spiritual self for her voice could be heard. It could not be smothered or stifled by stone. The phrase ‘that woman’ in the title of the poem mocks at the general conception of women in a male- chauvinistic society.
Selling you socks and shoes!
Remember me, I am the one you hid
In your walls of stone, while you roamed
Free as the breeze, not knowing
That my voice cannot be smothered by stones,
She is rather, the woman who has been crushed by the rigid constraints of custom and irrational barriers of tradition. Nevertheless, light cannot be hidden in darkness and manifest itself. A woman is the epitome of light (knowledge) As the saying goes: “If a man is educated, an individual is educated but if a woman is educated, the whole family is educated.” She is the lap that ensures security, caring and sharing. The Man takes flowers from her only to leave her thorns and embers rendering life a horrid experience for her. The idea of ‘embers’ implies how she endures hell right on earth. However, Man is ignorant to the fact that chains cannot smother her fragrance, as it is beyond worldly confinement. Tangible objects cannot deteriorate her intangible worth.
I am the woman
Whom you bought and sold
In the name of my own chastity
That I can walk on water
When I am drowning.
She states that she was the woman who was a slave. She is the one who was commercialized. She was praised in ideals, but practically she had no merit. She was a victim of reification. As Virgnia Woolf asserts in “A Room of One’s Own”: Imaginatively she is of the highest importance: practically she is completely insignificant. She … pervades poetry from cover to cover. She is all but absent from history.” A price was set even on her chastity. When attempts were made to drown her, the people in question underestimated her powers as she could even walk on water. The poetess refers to the practice is some third world countries, were women were deemed to be a burden and therefore drowned at birth. Also, in these countries, a woman is associated with dowry, so that she becomes a liability for her parents. The parents regard themselves as free after ridding themselves of the burden, according to the speaker. Hoever,they were trapped forever as they dwelled in a nation with ‘captive minds’ rooted in superstition and the darkness of irrationality.
I am the one you married off
To get rid of a burden
That a nation of captive minds
Cannot be free.
The speaker revilts gains a male consumerist society that relegated her as she claims:
I am the commodity you traded in,
My chastity, my motherhood, my loyalty.
Her chastity is not regarded, her motherhood is not respected and her loyalty is not reciprocated. It is now high time for her to be flower-free:to fully blossom realizing herself. To let her fragrance emanate permeating others life with meaning. She retorts now triumphantly that she is not ‘that’ woman. :
“The woman on that poster, half-naked, selling socks and shoes-
No, no, I am not that woman!”
©Rukhaya MK 2010
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