We live in a body obsessed culture. Men and women both feel pressured to have the perfect bodies, and we believe so many lies about what a perfect body is and what defines beauty.
Maya Angelou an African-American poet, emphasizes on the theme that, ‘Beauty is more than skin deep’. She disagrees that, beautiful woman have a good physique. Beauty has nothing to do with looks, popularity, hair, length or color. She tells that she may not be cute or good looking. Nor she has good figure, but still she is beautiful in her own right. She believes that society judge woman’s beauty by her outer appearance regardless of her inner worth. The other theme of Womanhood. A woman who has pride in being a woman, is self-confident, follows her heart and has faith in herself. Woman should not succumb the artificial canons of beauty but should feel proud about what God has made them.
In explaining her own story, Angelou, in the poem, persuades her audience to listen to her “secret” in understanding her own “inner mystery.” A woman’s unique qualities are what defines her and this poem is designed to give confidence to any woman. Every woman is convinced that she is, in fact, that “Phenomenal woman”.
The poem starts in a conversational fashion where a flock of women, intrigued by poet’s popularity amidst male suitors, want to know from her the secret of her success. Despite her strong refusal to fit into beauty paradigm, the poet gets maximum male attention. By her own admission, she is neither cute, nor she has a bottleneck figure. Her physical incongruity makes the questioning women more curious and they have a strong feeling that the poet conceals the secret of her success. Today women across the globe feel the need of being altered and they change into an unrecognizable form, by doing surgeries.
In the poem, she also tells that, she remains a mystery to men. She indicates to them that her mystery is not obscure but clearly expressed in her body language. Her influence lies in her grace, in her femininity.
Throughout the poem, we find the spirit of womanhood is highlighted. This poem has the theme that ‘Beauty is not just outer appearance’. She counters 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.
She uses the images on the physical attributes and the body language of the woman. The word is ‘Phenomenal’ has two meanings which are huge size, and second a great personality.
“If the feminine is lost on the planet, nothing of beauty, nothing of tenderness, nothing of truly aesthetic value will survive.”