Feminism In Adrienne Rich's Poetry Essay

3533 words - 14 pages

Adrienne Rich's poetry serves a prophetic function by articulating the history and ideals of the feminist struggle. By recalling the ancient chthonic mysteries of blood and birth, by reconnecting daughters with their mothers, by drawing parallels between women today and their historical counterparts, and by envisioning the women of the future who will emerge from the feminist struggle, her poetry celebrates women's strength and possibilities. Elaborating her vision, Rich brings a nurturing ethos to her analysis of social priorities:

I simply believe that human society is capable of meeting the fundamental needs of all human beings: we can give them a minimum standard of living, we can give them an education, we can create an environment which is more healthy to live in, and we can give people free medical care. We can provide these things for everybody in the society. We're not doing it, and I don't think there is any male system that is going to do that. ( TCWM)

Like Virginia Woolf, who asked, "Where in short is it leading, this procession of the sons of educated men?," 1 Rich finds that "masculine ideologies are the creation of masculine subjectivity; they are neither objective, nor value-free, nor inclusively 'human"' ( LSS, 207), and she regards feminism as a corrective to distortions of patriarchal ideologies.

In contrast to the monotheistic Judeo-Christian traditions, Rich defines feminism as a pluralistic ethos that cuts across divisions of race, caste, and nationality:

If we conceive of feminism . . . as an ethics, a methodology, a more complex way of thinking about, thus more responsibly acting upon, the conditions of human life, we need a self-knowledge which can only develop through a steady, passionate attention to all female experience. I cannot imagine a feminist evolution leading to radical change in the private/political realm of gender that is not rooted in the conviction that all women's lives are important; that the lives of men cannot be understood by burying the lives of women; and that to make visible the full meaning of women's experience, to reinterpret knowledge in terms of that experience, is now the most important task of thinking. ( LSS, 213)

This emphasis on making women's reality and values "visible" echoes the Puritan injunction to externalize faith. Like the Puritans who became "visible saints" through spiritual preparation for the day God called them, women "name" themselves by analyzing their experience and understanding the meaning of their lives:

And it means the most difficult thing of all: listening and watching in art and literature, in the social sciences, in all the descriptions we are given of the world, for the silences, the absences, the nameless, the unspoken, the encoded--for there we will find the true knowledge of women. And in breaking those silences, naming our selves, uncovering the hidden, making ourselves present, we begin to define a reality which resonates to us, which...

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