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ENGL 310- Feminist Analysis of Mechain’s Poems

Aug 7, 2023

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Feminist Analysis of Mechain’s Poems

How do the two poems by Gwerful Mechain challenge patriarchy? Analyze key lines.

Gwerful Mechain was known to be the only feisty, opinionated, and feminist female poet from the medieval era. Her poem is often used to celebrate female sexuality and women’s agency over their bodies. They have also dealt with domestic violence and the aggressive suppression of women in different spheres.

In all her poems, she has often taken a strong stand against patriarchy through her desirous and vigorous language and a distinctive punch. In terms of asserting her relevance, she often surpassed the legacy of masculine aggression and in fact, boldly she delved through the travesty of women’s desire.

In her poem ‘To the Vagina’ she subtly challenged the religious orthodoxy of the churches which controlled the women’s sexuality and reduced them to mere child-bearing objects, but she beautifully depicted uninhibited sexual desire and lust, which strongly opposed the patriarchal notions of male gaze.

A vagina there by the swelling bum.

Two lines of red to the song must come.

She embraces the innermost erogenous zone in the female body through their beautiful depiction and in addition to the lyrical structure. Her sentiments overcame the religious sanction, for which she fearlessly expressed the virtue of caring for the multidimensional desire. Her politics of desire also surpasses through the rejection of male control and subjugation.

A girl’s thick glade, it is full of love,

Lovely bush, blessed be it by God above.

Vagina has always been at the forefront of conflict in the female body and is fully governed by masculine desire, often grotesque and fetishized. Whereas, Mechain has deconstructed its’ beauty through the lens of acceptance of the rawness and realm.

In her poem, ‘To Her Husband for Beating Her,’ she protested against the gruesome domestic violence on women by their monstrous husbands. She has also depicted the brutality of medieval households, where female voices were almost unheard and suppressed. The religious sanction was one of the core issues from which men could escape easily. Through her strong voice, she has expressed that women have always been more virtuous and honest than men. Women’s victimhood was often played out through their hierarchical oppression by their male counterparts.

May your knees break, your hands shrivel

And your sword plunges into your guts to make you snivel.

The lines displayed the graphical portrayal of a violent household, where a man has full agency over his wife to beat him up to death. It often surpasses the physical boundary and reaches up to violate the organs through pain and torture.

The feminist stunt has been the predominant politics in her poems. She understood that liberation is the only integral base for women to claim their sexuality and protect it from a conventional patriarchal gaze, which often made women a puppet and exploited them, thereafter. Women can find their own space in a household after marriage, in her poems. She has used a vocal female voice to portray women in a realistic manner, contrasting with the stereotypical imagery of women being submissive and erotic objects. She triumphs over the patriarchy through non-normative language and confidence to speak with the authoritarian figure through her ideological assertion.

Reference List: (2019) This medieval feminist wrote about domestic abuse and sexuality, and composed an ode to the vagina Retrieved from: [Retrieved on: 18th Dec, 2019] (2022) Medieval poet who wrote about domestic abuse, female sexuality – and in praise of vaginas Retrieved from: [Retrieved on: 21st Feb, 2022]

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