The poem “Phenomenal Woman” describes the spirit of womanhood. The poem describes a woman who is proud of being a woman, who is confident, follows her heart, has faith in herself and believes in her inner strength. Such a woman is ‘phenomenally phenomenal.’
The poet tells her readers to ignore the conventional view of being beautiful which is only related to physical appearance. Instead the poet asks us to feel proud of what God has endowed us with. Women should not succumb to the artificial canons of beauty. Maya Angelou reminds us that our beauty lies much beyond the outer appearance.
She lists down some qualities that make truly phenomenal and why other women and men find her beauty mysterious.
“Phenomenal Woman” begins with a stark comment saying that she is neither cute nor has a great figure to suit a model’s size. She tells that ‘pretty women’ often wonders where the secret of her success lies. Moreover when she reveals her so-called secrets to them, they refuse to believe her. She describes her secret saying that it comes from her confidence, the way she stretches her arms, the way she walks, the rhythm of her hips and also the way she smiles. Her entire body is an expression of womanliness. Maya Angelou concludes the first stanza by saying that she is a ‘phenomenal woman’. Here the word ‘phenomenal’ can have dual meanings, one that is she is huge and the second, she has a towering personality. Thus she is huge in both physique and personality.
In the second stanza, Maya says that no matter how cool she enters a room, men fall for her and falls on their knees, they swarm around her like bees. She claims that it’s the passion in her eyes, the shine of her teeth when she smiles, the movement of her waist and the lightness of her feet that win men over. She is phenomenally a phenomenal woman. She considers herself as supreme and outstanding.
In the third stanza, she says she remains a mystery to men. Men often wonder why they fancy her. They try hard as much as they can to understand her mystery but they cannot touch her soul. Actually, they fail to understand that her mystery lies in her womanhood. She indicates to them that her mystery is not obscure but clearly expressed in her body language from the curve to her back, to her smile and rhythm of her bosom. In fact, her influence lies in her grace, in her femininity. In the last stanza, she asks her readers that they must have understood by then her power and influence on others and why her head is never bowed that is she walks confidently with her head always held high. She says that she need not have to jump or talk loudly to grab attention when she walks by. She influences all by passing quietly yet full of expression in every gesture she makes. She declares that her power lies in the sound of her heels, the curve in her hair, the palm of her hand. Finally, she restates the fact the she is a ‘phenomenal woman.’
Throughout the poem, we find the spirit of womanhood is highlighted. Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman” asserts the theme that ‘Beauty is more than skin deep.’ She refutes the theory that beautiful women should have well proportioned physique and vital statistics. She disapproves the distorted view of beauty, which emphasizes more on outer beauty than inner beauty. She argues that true beauty lies within and body language is the medium through which it is expressed.
You can also take a look at this Video Playlist to Learn More about this poem in an audio-visual format!