Who decides what a woman should look like? Wislawa Szymborska’s poems “Rubens Women,” “Portrait of a Woman,” and “Over Wine” begin to answer this question. The ideal female body of today’s world is tall and skinny, but not everyone fits that description. Why can’t a woman decide for herself what she should look like?
Szymborska was a Polish poet who was one of few females to win a Nobel Prize for her works. She is not known for feminist writing and she does not preach feminism in her works. Many of her poems in this novel do not specify a gender, but since she is a female we assume it is of the female role. Polish professor Grażyna Borkowska says it does not matter for literature, whether the author is male or female, what matters is rather how they can express their femininity in the language of literature (Qtd. in Karwowska, 2013, pg. 21).
“Rubens Women” by Wislawa Szymborska is about Peter Paul Rubens paintings of beautiful full-bodied women in the baroque era. Szymborska praises these “Rubenesque” women in the poem. In “Rubens Women” it says that skinny girls do not make it into his paintings, they “went single file along the canvas’s unpainted side. Exiled by style. Only their ribs stood out.” The poem goes on to say that, “The thirteenth century would have given them golden halos. The twentieth, silver screens. The seventeenth, alas, holds nothing for the unvoluptuous (Szymborska, 2000, pg 47). Szymborska uses some imagery in “Rubens Women” to help you visualize these big women and perhaps she over exaggerates to make her point. Perhaps this poem, along with her other poems based on works of art, are about her thoughts as she looked at them. She says, “O pumpkin plump! O pumped up corpulence inflated double by di...
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...s a feminist even though it was never clearly stated in her works or talk negatively about men. Whether women are defined by society or by men they are still under the control of something greater than themselves and Szymborska shows that in these poems. Today the glass ceiling is cracked but not completely broken, because not everyone views women in the same light, but perhaps feminists like Szymborska will continue to punch through and expand the feministic views to others altogether changing the way society looks at women.
DeLillo, D. (1985). White noise. New York, NY: Viking.
Szymborska, W., Cavanagh, C., & Baranczak, S. (2000). Poems: New and collected. London: Harcourt Professional.
Karwowska, B. (2013). Texts and the body. Retrieved May 8, 2016, from http://tekstydrugie.pl/file/fm/Issues/Teksty_Drugie_2013_s.e.vol.1_Texts_and_the_Body.pdf
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