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Women by May Swenson

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on 15 April 2015

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Transcript of Women by May Swenson

Literary devices
Ironic and Sarcastic
Extended Metaphor:
The depiction of women as pedestals represents their expectation of supporting men and never having a real purpose (Stanza 1). The metaphor of women as rocking horses illustrates their position as mens' "toys," especially in relation to sexual submission, in which hey are expected "unfeelingly/tobe/joyfully/ridden/rockingly" (Lines 13-18).
Lines 16-18
: Rocking by the swaying words
Women by May Swenson
May Swenson is criticizing not only the way men overpower women, but also how society accepts this and teaches women that this is the way things are.
Women are perceived as simple, ignorant creatures that should be considered lucky to be used as objects by men
-Conveys women's place in society and how women should have their own ambitions rather than just serving men
Ideologies established from the time era: women should support men
There s an overall strong feminist theme pertaining to equal opportunity and women's rights


Structure Analysis
The poem's structure imitates the rocking of a rocking horse, the curves of a woman's body, and an unscalable ladder. By forming the poem in the shape Swenson reinforces the rhythm of her words, implies that the perceived value of women is their physical attributes, and raises questions about women's ability to overcome societal barricades to success.
Break Down of Poem: Lines 1-3
The persona of the poem describes women as support
structures for men: “Women should be pedestals/ moving pedestals/ moving to the motions of men” (lines 1-3). A pedestal is a fixed structure, but in this poem the pedestals are “moving to the motions of men” (line 3), revealing that the pedestals (women) are objects to be manipulated by men according to their whims. The irony in “Women” is exposed in the opening lines of the poem; women are not objects, and they are not here solely for the support of men.

Women Or they
should be should be
pedestals little horses
moving those wooden
pedestals sweet
moving oldfashioned
to the painted
motions rocking
of men horses

the gladdest things in the toyroom

The feelingly
pegs and then
of their unfeelingly
ears To be
so familiar joyfully
and dear ridden
to the trusting rockingly
fists ridden until
To be chafed the restored

egos dismount and the legs stride away

Immobile willing
sweetlipped to be set
sturdy into motion
and smiling Women
women should be
should always pedestals
be waiting to men

Appears to be a Female from the 60's that present views of womanhood common at that time
in a 1978 collection by
May Swenson
Women are depicted as simple play-things for the enjoyment of men. Women are referred to as pedestals and children's toys thus belittling their usefulness.
The simple language equates to the simplicity of women
The imagery in the poem double as major symbols. The use of the pedestals and rocking horses express how women should be "pedestals to men." Women are used merely as objects and dehumanized. The symbolism of the rocking horse also exploits the sexual relationship between men and women and how women should be subservient to men.

Central Conflict
The lack of a women's role in society and how a women's purpose as objects is merely for the support and satisfaction of men
Open-form: No restrictions, unique, unpredictable, avoids traditional patterns. No rhyme scheme or set rhythm; in fact, its jarring pattern is beneficial to the poem's meaning.
Concrete Poetry: Poets focus on the visual arrangement of letters, words lines, and white space. Instead of a recognizable shape, the shape of the poem makes out the curves of a women's body and also the motion of a rocking horse. By shifting the flow of the structure there is a visual representation of the contradiction between the speakers words and the speakers thoughts
Break Down of Poem: Lines 4-6
The concept of women as objects is reiterated when the persona explains what other things women should be: “Or they should be little horses/ those wooden sweet old-fashioned painted rocking horses/ the gladdest things in the toyroom” (lines 4-6). On the surface the rocking horse represents women’s status as trophies for men. As toys, the women in this poem are possessions of spoiled children (men) to be used and forgotten once they are no longer new or attractive. The irony of women as oldfashioned and “the gladdest things in the toyroom” (line 6) is purposeful. During the time in which this poem was published women were actively separating themselves from traditional roles and voicing their dissatisfaction with societal limits. The rocking horse also symbolizes the oppression of women. The horse is a beast of burden whose labor benefits its master. Likewise, women have been exploited in the same manner, with contributions to family, community, government, and society going largely unnoticed.
Break Down of Poem: Lines 7-10

The pedestal mentioned earlier in the poem is invoked again during the rocking horse symbolism: “The pegs of their ears so familiar and dear/ to the trusting fists/ To be chafed feelingly/ and then unfeelingly” (lines 7-10). Feelingly and unfeelingly mimic the two separate meanings of the word pedestal. A pedestal is both a position of adoration and esteem and an apparatus for supporting a structure. A woman is both a creature to be adored (when convenient) and one to be burdened and used. The description of pegs also lends to the rhythm of the poem, adding to the subtle sway of the words on the page.
Break Down of Poem: Lines 11-13
The image of women as possessions goes further as the poem progresses. The sarcasm the persona uses becomes thick and bitter. “To be joyfully ridden/ until the restored egos dismount and the legs stride away/ Immobile sweetlipped sturdy and smiling” (lines 11-13). A common saying sates, “Behind every great man is a great woman.” The persona would likely agree: the job of women has been to restore the egos of men by providing them a sturdy shelter from their failures. Women’s attributes are easily disposed of as “the legs stride away”. Riding also has a sexual connotation which could easily symbolize the typical, heterosexual, male dominated relationship. This is reinforced by the description of women as being immobile, sweet lipped, and smiling. These rocking horse qualities symbolize women’s desire to be confined, dedicated, valued for their beauty, and ready to serve. Of course, this description is not a factual representation; it is another expression of the persona’s ironic tone.
Break Down of Poem: Lines 14-16
The bitterness of the persona’s words fully appreciates in the final three lines of the poem. “women should always be waiting/ willing to be set in motion/ Women should be pedestals to men” (lines 14-16). Here the persona’s message is clear. Women are tired of waiting to be given freedom of movement and expression. They will no longer tolerate being at the whims of men’s desires. They will not be objects for the homage of men. Women are not pedestals.
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