Summary

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 394

The title of this poem translates from Latin to mean for the woman, and it certainly does emphasize the ways in which women have been oppressed and prevented from participating in "the meeting"—the decision-making processes of society, business, church, and so on—as well as the contributions of women to society and the potential women possess to do more if they, "we" as Kizer uses in the poem, come together and own our choices and boundaries.

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The speaker asks us to consider "the fate of women" from Sappho to herself, now, but she states that it is "unwomanly" even to discuss that fate, those oppressions that women have borne throughout history. She suggests that we have been "set apart" by and from men, called "hyenas" or worse. Men can discuss free will and its implications, but women still don't even have it, as our choices are controlled by men. Men have believed themselves to possess a "divine right" to rule over women, and many women have simply accepted this idea as well, equating God with males. The speaker thinks, however, that given the chance, women "might save the race" of humanity.

The notion of an independent woman is discussed, with regard to how women try to be independent—often resulting in their failure to capture a husband in "the race for a male"—but occasionally do need "cosseting," just as men do sometimes. We acquiesce to being cows sometimes because we deliver the babies and our breasts equal milk, but we refuse to be cows forever. We are chained to our menstrual cycles and our appearances, taught that we must constantly keep both in check, though men do not have to worry about either one. "The drape of the male is designed to achieve self-forgetfulness," unlike women who feel compelled to make sure our "masks" are not "smearing or cracking." She wants us to forget all this and be like the goddess, Athena, who didn't care about her own appearance or value to men.

Ultimately, the speaker seems to feel that women are emerging from their oppressive pasts, with some exceptions. Those who wish to remain single can, and those who wish to marry can; victory is in the pride one takes or one's refusal to feel guilty. We can set our boundaries, and we must, if we are to be "free women."

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Themes