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Summary

"Foolish Men," sometimes translated as "You Foolish Men," is a poem by Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz. As the title suggests, the poem is addressed to men and calls them out on their errors. The open opens with the speaker saying the men are foolish because they blame women for things that they, the men, are guilty of, and the men don't even realize that (which is why they are fools). The poem then proceeds to give examples of how men view women and why men's perspectives are often wrong.

The gist of the poem seems to be that men have mixed or contradictory expectations of women. For example, they might expect a woman to be one way when they court her and another once they are married. In a particularly strong metaphor, the speaker asks how a man can fog up a mirror himself and then have the nerve to ask why it isn't clear. This metaphor suggests that men blame women for what they've done themselves and berate women for their (men's) own faults. She tells men that they don't believe what women say either way; if women praise them, they think they're being mocked and if women don't treat them well, men complain. The speaker later goes on to ask who is more to blame, and the implication is that men should bear more of the responsibility. The clearest statement (which is actually a question, not a statement) of the speaker's attitude toward men is stated as such: "Why be outraged at the guilt / that is of your own doing?" A strong statement against men's arrogance closes the poem.

Summary

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Sor Juana’s reputation as an early feminist rests upon The Poet’s Answer to the Most Illustrious Sister Filotea de la Cruz and upon the poem “Foolish Men.” The poem is commonly known by its first two words, “Hombres necios,” which translate as “Foolish Men,” or by its first line, which translates as “foolish men, who accuse. . . . ” “Foolish Men,” a poem in defense of women, is among her best-known works. Written in a relatively frank and idiomatic tone, the verses seem strikingly modern. Clearly, Sor Juana had difficulty in her own life with the role assigned to women. Sor Juana’s poetry often portrays women as the more logical partners in battles of love with men. Her view of love is certainly not idealized; relationships between men and women are necessarily problematic, and love itself is an unreasonable emotion filled with tension and strife.

“Foolish Men” opens with a blunt accusation against men who are very good at blaming women for faults that men themselves have caused. Sor Juana argues for women, although she never refers to women as “we.” Her short verses, in the form of redondillas—stanzas of four lines rhyming abba—move forcefully through her logical argument. The content is easy enough to follow, and Sor Juana repeats her view in various forms of rephrasing. Men win over women’s resistance and then, becoming self-righteous, blame them for feminine frivolity. Furthermore, a woman cannot win. If she refuses her suitor, she is ungrateful and cold; if she gives in, she is lewd.

After establishing the problem, Sor Juana poses the question: Who is guiltier if their passion leads to sin? Her implicit answer is obvious. Her concluding verses challenge men to either love women as they have made them, or make them into whatever they would prefer. It is, after all, men’s pursuit that leads to women’s fall. Her final stanza speaks by her personal authority (“I well know . . . ”) of men’s arrogance. Contrary to the male view of women as the occasion of sin, she presents her own view of men as allied with the devil, the flesh, and the world.

While Sor Juana was not a feminist in the sense of an activist fighting in the public sphere for women’s rights, she was conscious of her position as a woman writer, and she did assert her right to develop her intellectual ability....

(The entire section is 1,000 words.)