In the poem “I Am Not That Woman” the writer Kishwar Naheed expresses her opinion and knowledge on how women in her culture are treated. Throughout the motion of this poem, the writer seems to be trying to send a message to all men – in particular men from her culture and possibly someone from real-life experience. The writer is an Asian woman, most likely to be Pakistani considering that this poem was translated from Urdu (Pakistan’s national language). She was born in 1940 in the town Bulandshahr which is in India. She was born and brought up in a traditional family where the atmosphere always favoured men over women. The message she gives through this particular poem is an objection, what is that objection is a mystery soon to be uncovered. It is also interesting to uncover how Naheed expresses her objection through the poem, she does this in an unorthodox but interesting fashion.
Straight away from the poem, the phrase “I am not that woman” tells us something about the purpose of the poem. This certain phrase has been mentioned at the beginning, end and most effectively and importantly is the title of the poem. Overall the phrase has been used in the form of repetition and is a phrase that will be remembered and associated with the poem, so in other words, this line is effective and important. The actual meaning that the phrase expresses tells us that she is objecting to something. The keyword “woman” tells us that she is objecting to something about a woman. Going into more detail she possibly may object to something that lots of women are, only by studying the poem further will tell us what exactly she is objecting to. The phrase “I am not that woman” also tells us that she is speaking in the first-person narrative, therefore, shows that the poem is very personal.
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The first line in the poem reads, “I am not that woman selling you socks and shoes!” In this line, Naheed is trying to say that she is not a slave. When she says “Selling Socks and shoes!” she may be referring to supplying socks and shoes to her husband. This is most likely what she is trying to say, that she is not a slave that will give you your socks and shoes. It also is known that she wants this point to stand out and to be heard as she ends the sentence with an exclamation mark. The next part of the poem says “Remember me, I am the one you hid in your walls of stone, while you roamed free as the breeze”. This line shows some particular words that tell us about Naheed’s oppression. This line basically is saying that someone has kept her in the home, while that someone has been “roaming free as the breeze” meaning out of the house whenever that person wants. We know it is someone making her do this when she said “You hid” and “You roamed”. This links to the first lines where she felt she was being treated like a slave. Someone is treating her like a slave and trapping her from the world.
This is basically what Naheed’s oppression is. In the last line of that first part and paragraph of the poem Naheed said, “not knowing that my voice cannot be smothered by stones”. This line is very powerful as it shows that she has a strong and courageous character. The first line in the next stanza of the poem reads, “I am the one you crushed with the weight of custom and tradition”. This represents the way her oppression has come upon her, “by custom and tradition”. This gives the impression that her culture has brought her oppression upon her. We already know that she is Asian, this may link to maybe her husband or father treating her badly because of cultural traditions. The next line reads, “not knowing that light cannot be hidden in darkness”. This is a very powerful and effective line. She is trying to represent herself as the “light” that cannot be hurt or smothered by the “darkness” which represents maybe her husband or father who is bringing this pain upon her. The next phrase used in this poem is “Remember me”.
This phrase was also used in the first paragraph. It shows that this poem is directed at someone who has caused her oppression in the past. It also shows that all of what Naheed is writing about in this poem is from past experience. Hence, Naheed has undergone a huge change in her character. The next part of the poem reads, “I am the one in whose lap you picked flowers and planted thorns and embers not knowing that chains cannot smother my fragrance.” These lines represent special words and phrases that represent particular things. The word “flowers” shows that someone has taken some happiness away from her. “Planted thorns and ember” represents the soreness and pain that this someone has brought upon her replacing the happiness that has been taking away. The last part of this quote shows how strong her character is. “Chains cannot smother my fragrance” meaning the pain cannot take away the good inside me. So far we have seen Naheed use effective language such as the use of metaphors to represent her oppression. An example of this would be “Planted thorns and embers” which represent and describe the pain, which Naheed has felt.
The next paragraph starts off by saying “I am the woman whom you bought and sold in the name of my own chastity”. This line shows that the person who had brought oppression upon Naheed is her father. When it says “whom you bought” probably means whom you created which could represent a father. It then clarifies it is her father by saying “and sold in the name of my own chastity”. This line means that she has been “sold” meaning married off because of her “chastity” meaning her virginity. “I am the woman whom…” shows that this whole poem is aimed at her father. The last part of this stanza says “not knowing that I can walk on water when I am drowning.” This again shows Naheed’s strong character and her good nature. She is trying to say that when she is “drowning” meaning when she is feeling down or sad she is still able to “walk on water” meaning she can tolerate it and rise above it.
The next stanza starts off with “I am the one you married off to get rid of a burden”. This shows that she felt that her father married her off because he didn’t want or love her. The last part of that short stanza reads, “not knowing that a nation of captive minds cannot be free.” In this line, she is telling her father that a nation of women in her culture has been “captive” as in trapped and that they “cannot be free”. This also shows that this poem could also be directed upon women in her culture, in order to relate to them and to show them that they are not alone. On the other hand, she also mentioned the phrase “not knowing”. This particular phrase was also used in the last stanza and shows us whom this poem is directed. It tells us she is trying to send a message to a particular audience; in this line alone it seems to be her father.
The final stanza starts off by saying “I am the commodity you traded in”. In this line, Naheed uses the word “commodity” meaning that she is an object that has been “traded in” which is referring to her being married off. In the next line “chastity, motherhood” and “loyalty” are all listed to tell us of all the things she can do and all the things broken and ruined by her father. Her virginity was given away, her motherhood was probably forced upon her and her loyalty forced to be used wrongly. “Now is the time for me to flower free,” tells me that her perspective has changed. She is free from evil and that she now wishes to look to the future not backwards at her past. The last part of the poem reads, “The woman on that poster, half-naked, selling socks and shoes – No, no, I am not that woman!” In the last three lines, she reinforces the fact that she is not a slave and that she would never stoop so low as to be half-naked, selling socks and shoes. She repeats “no” twice in the last line to reinforce the fact she is determined to be her own woman.
She also ends the poem with the main phrase and title of the poem “I am not that woman”, she also adds an exclamation mark, overall this makes the phrase powerful and to have an impact upon the reader’s mind. This is a strong positive ending, which tells me she feels triumphant with the fact that she has told the world about her oppression and now nothing can stop her. As a whole, we can see how Kishwar Naheed has represented oppression through the basis of her poem “I am not that woman”. Naheed’s representation and version of oppression is the way women are treated in her culture. In this poem, she tells us about the men in her culture. How they control the woman taking away their “chastity” and pride”. Women are not equal to men they are treated as if they are well below them. She tells us about how women are trapped and suffocated while the men “Roam-free as the breeze”. This is the basic representation of oppression that Kishwar Naheed has given us through her poem “I Am Not That Woman”.
The poem “Still I Rise” is similar to the poem “I am Not That Woman” by Kishwar Naheed. Both poems stand up for woman’s rights. However, although both poems represent oppression, it is expressed in two entirely different ways. The poem “Still I Rise” is written by Maya Angelou who is an African woman born in 1928 in St. Louis. She had many talents such as being a poet, historian, author, actress, playwright, civil-rights activist, producer and director. In this poem, she fuses two of her talents of being a poet and a civil-rights activist. The poem “Still I Rise” is basically representing the oppression that a black woman went through during the apartheid. When reading the poem “Still I Rise” the first thing you see is the title, which most obviously is “Still I Rise”. This title straightway gives us – the audience the impression that this poem is powerful and meaningful. The title represents the writer’s point of view. So straight away the writer has given out a message that she will not be beaten.
The first actual line of the poem is “You may write me down in history with your bitter, twisted lies”. Straight away the writer addresses the reader. We know this from the first and keyword “You”. The rest of the line gives us the impression that this poem has not been directed at any ordinary audience. She somehow creates an angry tone, which could show that this message and poem are directed to someone who has hurt her. The rest of the first stanza reads “You may tread me in the very dirt but still like dust, I rise”. This line shows that the reader feels hate towards someone, possibly and most likely someone who has brought her oppression. We also know that she is expressing these feelings of anger from primary experiences, we get this impression from the keyword that was used “You may Tread Me in…” The word “Me” tells us that this poem is written from real-life experiences. The last line of the stanza repeats the title “Still…I rise”. This emphasizes the title of the poem, it also represents that the writer Maya Angelou has a strong and brave character.
The second stanza starts off by saying “Does my sassiness upset you? Why are you beset with gloom?” She starts off this stanza by asking two interesting questions. The first means does my confidence (sassiness) upset you. She is trying to ask why a black woman being upset could upset you. The next question asks, “Why are you” overwhelmed “with” darkness. This could be asking why is someone overwhelmed by the darkness of her skin. Overall from these questions, she is portraying and asking why people are racist to her. This links to the apartheid of how white South Africans were racist to black South Africans who were made slaves. This stanza ends by saying “Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells pumping in my living room”. The word “oil wells pumping” are metaphors for the words confidence and pride. The phrase living room is also a metaphor for home, which in this case is Africa. So overall the lines are asking if it makes you angry that I walk with confidence and pride in my own motherland of Africa.
This is similar to the first two questions mentioned in this stanza as it questions why racism comes upon her. This also shows that maybe her representation of oppression has come from racism that has been bestowed upon her. The racism is most likely to come from white South African men. The whole of the next stanza represents Angelou’s strong and positive character through the use of metaphors. She uses such metaphors as “Moons” and “Suns” to represent how high her courage can rise. This same representation of courage is used in another metaphor, which is “Just like hopes springing high”. She ends the stanza by saying “Still I’ll rise”. In this last phrase, she has included the tile of the poem and repeated the fact she will not be beaten. The next stanza starts off by asking two questions again. This technique of asking questions was used in the second stanza too. The first says, “Did you want to see me broken?”
Which basically means did you want to see me hurt. The next three lines are similar to the first. They all seem to represent pain caused. The last part of the stanza says “Shoulder’s falling like teardrops, Weakened by my soulful cries”. This line represents pain and sadness that has been brought upon by someone. In order to present this, the writer has used techniques like using similes such as “Shoulders falling like teardrops”. Overall the stanza proves that someone has hurt her and brought oppression upon the writer. She seems to represent oppression in the form of mental pains. Such as “soulful cries” and “bowed heads” which both mean being upset and sad mentally. The next stanza starts off by saying “Does my haughtiness offend you? Don’t you take it awful hard”? This line is trying to send a message from Angelou to white racist men. She is asking them whether they “take it awful hard” to the fact that she objects to being put down and be hurt by white racist men during the apartheid. She endures this objection of being hurt by using a simile in the next line.
“Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines Digging’ in my own back yard”. She is trying to say she laughs sighs of happiness when men try to put her down. This shows that Maya Angelou’s oppression was mainly from the racist abuse that white African men gave during the apartheid. This stanza has also reminded us of the strong character and courage that she possesses. The next line uses the repetition of the phrase “You may” at the beginning of the first three lines. Together with this phrase, she includes such threatening sentences as ” You may shoot me with your words” and “You may cut me with your eyes”. This shows some of the pain white men tried to bring upon Angelou. They tried insulting her “with” their “words” and they gave her shameful and hurtful looks “with” their “eyes”. But this still doesn’t put her down as her strong and courageous nature raises her above. We know this from the last line of the stanza where it says “But still like air, I’ll rise”.
So far in the poem, we have seen very effective adjectives and similes being used in Angelou’s language. For more effectiveness, she has also used rhyming couplets with the second and fourth lines of every line in each of the stanzas so far. Overall her powerful language has equalled the powerful attitude that she has towards all of the oppression that she has experienced. The next stanza starts off by saying “Does my sexiness upset you? Does it come as a surprise”. In these lines, she is trying to say that black women can be just as attractive as white women. She brings this fact up again in the next line too. In this short stanza, she has again brought up the racism factor. This verifies the fact that part of her oppression has come from racism.
The next stanza has six lines where the second and fourth lines only read the phrase “I rise”. The first line says “Out of the huts of history’s shame”. This line is trying to express that she is overcoming slavery in South Africa. The fourth line reads “Up from the past that’s rooted in pain”. In this line, she is trying to say she is moving on from the roots meaning the beginning and is looking to a future far from pain. The last part of the stanza says “I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide, Welling and swelling I bear the tide”. This line is very poetic but what the writer is really referring to is black slaves, which is expressed using the metaphor black ocean. Here “welling and swelling” and had to “bear the tide” which is really referring to the boat the slaves sailed in to be evacuated to the USA.
The last stanza includes nine lines. The second and fourth lines are similar to the last stanza and include the phrase “I rise”. The first line of the stanza reads, “Leaving behind nights of terror”. This phrase shows that Angelou is looking to the future and leaving her oppression behind. The fifth and sixth lines read, “Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave”. This line is very emotive and authoritative. The poet is saying that her ancestors have given her freedom allowing her to be the “dream and the hope of the slave”. Which for her is to be a free, proud and strong black woman. The poem then ends with the repetition of the phrase “I rise” three times. This ending is powerful and effective, the poet Maya Angelou is trying to express that, no matter what you may say or do she will always overcome and rise to the top and that it is impossible to hold her down because she is a black woman.
The poem “I Am Not That Woman” is about women overcoming oppression. The poem is in the first-person narrative where an Asian woman is in an Asian society where women are inferior to men. The woman seems confused as to who she wants to be as she doesn’t want to be the Western woman or the Eastern woman but doesn’t seem to have enough confidence to be herself and not worry about where she fits in. She seems strong inside but does not show these true colours on the outside to everybody, so she is thought of as another Eastern woman. The second poem “Still I Rise” has the narrator in the first person as a black woman in a white society, where blacks were treated as inferior. This poem is also about a woman overcoming her oppression and showing that there are feelings of hope for the woman mentioned. Similar to “I Am Not That Woman”, this poem also has a different theme introduced in every verse to add to the main theme of oppression.
The poet seems proud and confident in herself, which you can tell from the title, “Still I Rise”. Overall there is a distinct and clear difference and comparison between the ways the two poems represent oppression. Naheed’s representation and version of oppression in the poem “I Not That Woman” is the way women are treated in her culture. In this poem, she tells us about the men in her culture. How they control the woman taking away their “chastity” and pride”. Women are not equal to men they are treated as if they are well below them. She tells us about how women are trapped and suffocated while the men “Roam-free as the breeze”. This is the basic representation of oppression that Kishwar Naheed has given us through her poem “I Am Not That Woman”. In the poem “Still I Rise” Maya Angelou’s version and representation of oppression is the way she has been treated in the apartheid by racist men.
Her oppression has come from the main source of racism and slavery. She refers to such points, as that black woman can be just as attractive as any white woman. We got some of this information from the phrase “Does my Sexiness upset you?” Overall this all led me to a conclusion that the comparison in the representation of oppression in these two poems is that oppression has been caused by men in both “I Am Not That Woman” and “Still I rise”. The difference is that in the poem “I Am Not That Woman”, Kishwar Naheed’s oppression was particularly caused by religious and cultural reasons. Whilst in the poem “Still I rise” the oppression that Maya Angelou felt was mainly from racism and slavery.