Merlinda Bobis introduces her poetry book, titled Accidents of Composition. She expresses how her works are related to Nature, Humanity, and The Self. She does this while introducing her reflections on the current events that are happening. One significant similarity that I see between her poetry and Sor Juana Inés De La Cruz’s is their spirited intellectual defense for the rights of human beings. They both vouch for equality while displaying an immersed understanding of the contradicting reality. When they write, they do not call for their sole equality as a woman but as a human being in its entirety. For her, she believes that kindness can be the quality that everyone needs for the possibility of this progress.
I specifically appreciated Merlinda’s poem titled Girl on the Lamp. Here, she defiantly alludes that women are a mere subordination to Patriarchy. She shows through imagery how the innocence of these girls is seized without their consent by men. “Artefact of girlhood/arrested, is this/your story too?” (79). This portrays the offering in which the girls give their virginity to their husbands during the wedding night. The persona seems to question their reliance on men: “But even salvation/is in the hands/of men — /what do they know/of our dark?” (79). These works are a realistic unfortunate event that occurs still. This poem highlights resistance gained through an acknowledgement of one’s rights. It gives us contending importance as to why one needs to voice out their own need for liberty.
Bobis has some poems focusing on ecofeminism. There is an enormous gap that engenders an inequality on both the women and the ecology due to Patriarchy. The movement seeks to eradicate all forms of social injustice, not just injustice against women and the environment. The cause is the prevalent pattern in which some men exploit and control. Merlinda Bobis portrays through her works that such a concept should be deemed as obstinately fallacious. The persona through her discourse chooses kindness to determines the power of a woman’s identity and her surround-dings. Her message resonates: All beings are created as equals and should be treated well. Altruism becomes another value that correlates to ecofeminism: “There could be accidents of kindness here…” The author hopes to instigate the equality and nurture of all beings through her vision.
Feminism is a movement committed to the elimination of male-gender power and privilege or sexism. Despite the many differences of feminists, all feminists agree with the notion that the existence of sexism is wrong and should be altered. As Barbara Johnson explains in The Feminist Difference, “Femininity has always been an orthopedic notion (orthopedic: from ortho- “straight, correct, right”; and paideia, “education”). Including but not restricted to normative notions of Beauty, the concept of femininity acts as a mold for shaping and controlling women’s behavior.” This belief can be expressed through writing; the self may express her movement against sexist oppression through academic or creative writing discourses such as poetry writing. Self-consciousness becomes one’s hallmark in contemporary poetry writing and feminism criticism is of no exception.
Bobis’s poem, “The Girl on the Lamp,” speaks of a young girl who tries to win back her identity away from the perspective and demands of men on how she should be. “Who are you that looks back at us, / lights us / saves us / from the dark, / knows us / each night / more than we’ll ever / know ourselves?” (78). She starts questioning the validity of the male view.
She would rather choose her own path for she knows herself more, “To be saved / or not to be saved / from the dark: / this is the question. / But even salvation / is in the hands / of men — / what do they know of our dark?” (79). From here, the dissonance on her perspective about Patriarchy heightens, she does not believe in being saved, especially when she sees that her safety is in question under the care of men. “Girl on the lamp / from antiquity, / we think ourselves safe / in the 21st Century” (80). Women are being married at such an early age against one’s comfort and consent.
Another poem that embraces the idea of feminism is “Auguries of a Fish,”in which a young girl is chosen amongst her sisters based on her capabilities to serve, “because she was a little / lighter than her sisters / and she can cook” (11). She is objectified, causing the reader to understand the plight of being a woman. She becomes a part of a selection, “The virgin one, / the fruity one, / the lighter one?” (11). She is herded as a servant to his ship in the endless Atlantic, “Master wants it fresh, / wants the first pick” (12). Another metaphor is expressed here as the girl is deemed as an accessory to the needs of a man. Her freedom is bought by his money, thus, depicting the prevailing masculinity mentality as he denies her right to her own body and her sexuality.
From arguments, there are particular and significant connections between women and nature, ecofeminism relates the oppression and domination of all subordinate groups (women, people of color, children, the poor) to the oppression and domination of nature (animals, land, water, air, etc.) All of these are known to be subordinate groups subjected to oppression. It is the belief of ecofeminists that the connection between feminism and ecology can be illustrated through the feminine values such as reciprocity, nurturing, and cooperation, which are present both among women and in nature.
This was expressed in the poem “After Reming,” a reminiscing of the Supertyphoon on November 2006 in the Philippines. Bobis speaks of the typhoon as she sees her own actions during the event, “I’m suddenly / beside the purple gate / in the house, / led by the definite article, / thus definitely placed” (25). Her actions have become one with the volcanic eruption, “That smelt of Sulphur. / So I fill the hole, / I frame it, / layout the scene, line by line, / body by body / in that disappeared house” (25). Her mother explains to her of a flower, a purple hibiscus, appearing beside a hole that used to be a house.
This unwavering characteristic of nature, of enduring storms and calamities, becomes parallel to the feminist’s perspective on preservation. As Dominador Bombongan explains in Ecological Feminism, “Ecofeminist positions are as diverse as the feminism from which they gain their strength and meaning. These diverse ecofeminist positions also stand for the different understandings of nature and the solutions to environmental problems. Although ecofeminism represents a plurality of positions, what all ecofeminists hold in common is the claim that there are important connections between the domination of women and that of nature.”
Ecofeminism describes movements and philosophies that link feminism with ecology. It seeks to eradicate all forms of social injustice, not just injustice against women and the environment. It asserts the special strength and integrity of every living thing. As Karen Warren explains in Ecofeminism: Women, Culture, Nature, “According to ecological feminists (“ecofeminists”), important connections exist between the treatment of women, people of color, and the underclass on one hand and the treatment of nonhuman nature on the other.
Ecological feminists claim that any feminism, environmentalism, or environmental ethic which fails to take these connections seriously is grossly inadequate. Establishing the nature of these connections, particularly what I call women-nature connections, and determining which are potentially liberating for both women and nonhuman nature is a major project of ecofeminist philosophy”
Bobis’s poem, “Feather, Seahorse, and Atomic Explosion,” represents this woman-nature connection: “And the sky / looks back at us / seeking signs / we wish to see / from whatever ground / holds us / shapes us” (15). She sees the feather, the seahorse and the atomic explosion as the same with us, “Always / the evolution / of a wish / for rain / new grass / and maybe / even flowers”
I find this poem corresponding to the Philosophical Satire written by Sor Juana because they both state the inevitable fact: There is an enormous gap that engenders an inequality between men and women up until the present day whether it be in relationships, in work, or in society all around the world. Not only that, there is still a prevalent pattern in which some men control women and their surroundings.
Their favour and disdain
you hold in equal state,
if they mistreat, you complain,
you mock if they treat you well.
No woman wins esteem of you:
the most modest is ungrateful
if she refuses to admit you;
yet if she does, she’s loose.
You always are so foolish
your censure is unfair;
one you blame for cruelty
the other for being easy.
Merlinda Bobis and Sor Juana have both portrayed through their works that such a concept should be deemed as obstinately fallacious. As Sor Juana says, “You foolish and unreasoning men/who cast all blame on women,/not seeing you yourselves are cause/of the same faults you accuse.” The persona through her discourse opposes that men should have the power to determine a woman’s sole identity or role in society. All human beings are created as equals, after all, an ongoing fight that we have, up to this present day.
Note: The other notable Feminist Writers are Simone de Beauvoir, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Louisa May Alcott, and my favorite Maya Angelou.
Written in, October 2017
Bobis, Merlinda. Accidents of Composition. University of the Philippines Press, 2017.
Puchner, Martin, et al. (Editors). The Norton Anthology of World Literature (3rd Ed.) New York:
W.W. Norton & Company, 2012.