What does "I dance like I've got diamonds" mean in "Still I Rise"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In this poem, the speaker expresses her confidence in herself, despite those who might "want to see [her] broken" with "Bowed head and lowered eyes." Instead of acting ashamed or embarrassed about who she is, this woman laughs like she has "gold mines [...] in [her] own backyard" and walks as if she had "oil wells / Pumping in [her] living room." Though others might expect her to laugh quietly or politely, to walk softly, as one who is subservient or submissive might; she, instead, conducts herself as though she is very important—because she believes that she is very important and valuable. And so she repeatedly compares her behavior to the behavior of a person who owns things of great value: gold mines, oil wells, or diamonds. When she asks readers if it bothers us that she dances "like [she has] diamonds / At the meeting of [her] thighs," she insists that her womanhood, her femaleness, is of great value, despite how often women are oppressed or denied a voice, especially black women. This speaker doesn't act or talk or dance or walk the way white America might want her to; instead, she recognizes her value and she owns it proudly.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

When calling her womanly parts “diamonds,” the speaker is emphasizing her sexuality and pride in being a woman.

 

The context of the poem is how a woman can continue to bounce back after being beaten down.  This can apply to a black woman or any woman.  The poem is an inspirational one, in which a woman takes pride in being a woman and continuing to “rise” when beaten down.

Does my sexiness upset you?

Does it come as a surprise

That I dance like I've got diamonds

At the meeting of my thighs?

The key to interpreting this stanza is the first line.  When the speaker asks, “Does my sexiness upset you?” she is talking about being held back by men, or even by other women.  She is proud of who she is, and does not hide it.  This makes some uncomfortable, or surpises them, including people who would objectify her.  She sees value in being a woman.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial