What does Sor Juana criticize in terms of men's expectations of women with her poem "Redondillas"what is the meaning of this poem?

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droxonian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Redondillas", or "You Foolish Men," is a seventeenth century critique of patriarchy, the tenets of society which cause men to blame women for things men themselves are the cause of. The poet complains that men "invite the disdain" of women with their behavior, but then complain when women do not behave sweetly towards them. The behavior of men, the poet says, is childish: "you act just like a child / who plays the bogeyman / of whom he's then afraid." The poem highlights a simple double standard, wherein men provoke a particular response in women through their behavior, but then go on to criticize the woman for responding in a reasonable way. 

The particular double standard of men's expectations for women's sexual behaviour is highlighted in the comment that "you wish to find a Thais in her you court, but a Lucretia when you have possessed her." Men, the poet complains, wish to court a virgin but then bed a more promiscuous woman. It is not possible for one woman to be both, and yet this is what men seem to expect. 

Men's expectations are compared to those of a man who "mists a mirror and then complains when it is not clear". That is, they seem to expect the impossible, or that their actions should have no consequences. 

Modest women, the poet complains, are deemed ungrateful, but any woman who does respond to compliments is then "loose." 

In their "promise and insistence," the poet says, men "join world, flesh and devil"—everything men do in their wooing of women defies logic, and yet it is women who are declared irrational. 

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a poem in which the poet is criticizing the double standard that men have for women.  She is arguing that women can never satisfy men's expectations.  This is because men seem to want them to be both the "Madonna" and "the whore."  (I'm referring to the idea that men see women as either pure like the Virgin Mary or as whores.)

Throughout the poem, Sor Juana is trying to point out that men get angry at women if the women will not agree to have sex with them.  But if the women do agree, then the men lose respect for them and say that they are impure.  Sor Juana also argues that men have created an ideology in which their sins are ignored while those of women are exaggerated.  For example, she asks who is more sinful -- the woman who sins for money (a prostitute) or the man who pays her.

Read the study guide:
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

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