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Phenomenal women (and a man)

by Alli Appelbaum
Alli Appelbaum
Alexandra Appelbaum is presently in her third year studying towards a Bachelor o
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on Jul 14 in Experience 0 Comment

Phenomenal woman - Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.

I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size

But when I start to tell them,

They think I'm telling lies.


I say,

It's in the reach of my arms

The span of my hips,

The stride of my step,

The curl of my lips.

I'm a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That's me.


I walk into a room

Just as cool as you please,

And to a man,

The fellows stand or

Fall down on their knees.

Then they swarm around me,

A hive of honey bees.


I say,

It's the fire in my eyes,

And the flash of my teeth,

The swing in my waist,

And the joy in my feet.

I'm a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That's me.


Men themselves have wondered

What they see in me.

They try so much

But they can't touch

My inner mystery.

When I try to show them

They say they still can't see.


I say,

It's in the arch of my back,

The sun of my smile,

The ride of my breasts,

The grace of my style.

I'm a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That's me.


Now you understand

Just why my head's not bowed.

I don't shout or jump about

Or have to talk real loud.

When you see me passing

It ought to make you proud.


I say,

It's in the click of my heels,

The bend of my hair,

the palm of my hand,

The need of my care,

'Cause I'm a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That's me.


This poem by Maya Angelou, in many ways provides the antithesis of Kipling’s poem. A mantra to many women, the poem is empowering. Maya Angelou stands out as a ‘phenomenal woman’ in the feminist movement. This poem has inspired me. Like Audre Lorde, Maya Angelou stands out as a beacon of brilliance in the feminist movement. Below is an Audre Lorde poem that I find quite fascinating. These two women make my heart sing with their words. If I were to ever list my heroes, Audre Lorde would be right up there. Incidentally, Congressman John Lewis who we met this week, would not be far from it. Amazing people. Great minds. Secure in themselves, their race and their genders. Most impressively, all three are unrelenting advocates of their cause.


A Woman Speaks


Moon marked and touched by sun

my magic is unwritten

but when the sea turns back

it will leave my shape behind.

I seek no favor

untouched by blood

unrelenting as the curse of love

permanent as my errors

or my pride

I do not mix

love with pity

nor hate with scorn

and if you would know me

look into the entrails of Uranus

where the restless oceans pound.

I do not dwell

within my birth nor my divinities

who am ageless and half-grown

and still seeking

my sisters

witches in Dahomey

wear me inside their coiled cloths

as our mother did


I have been woman

for a long time

beware my smile

I am treacherous with old magic

and the noon's new fury

with all your wide futures


I am


and not white.





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About the author

Alli Appelbaum

Alexandra Appelbaum is presently in her third year studying towards a Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science at the University of Cape Town. She holds the position of Human Resources Manager of the Township Debating League, a project run under the umbrella of the Ubunye NPO, an education-focused community development organization at UCT. She was recently an exchange student at the University of California-Berkeley. A proficient academic, she frequently places amongst the highest achievers in her faculty. Alli is passionate about social justice, development, education, literature, travel and the arts. She hopes to make a positive contribution to the conceptions and realities of South Africa, Africa and the Global South.


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