Monday, 3 September 2012

Sweet Sixteen – a poem by: Eunice De Souza – Analysis

Eunice De Souza’s poem is a beautifully crafted work that parodies the way society brings up young women or girls. Sex and sexual topics are shunned for no real reasons except that society demands it and the result is misconceptions and naïve innocence that is at once touching as is funny. She rounds off the poem very well by describing how when sixteen she assured her friend with all gravity that dancing with a man could lead to pregnancy.

The tone of the poem is jovial and relaxedly informal. Her mother begins the societal conditioning by leaving out mentioning the onset of puberty by menstruation leaving her daughter to find out for herself. At school, the girls are taught that the common article of dressing exclusive to their sex “a bra” is a shameful word, they should call it “bracelets” which is completely meaningless a word. There is a sense of rigid social imposition. These articles are things that make up their daily lives but they must hid them or feel some embarrassment for it. It may make no sense to a rational person but society knows best how to bring up a girl.
As far as the topic of dress goes, a man may walk half-naked without much oogling but if a women goes in sleeveless dresses in some communities it would be the height of daring. You can’t wonder at this state of affairs when in some cultures even wearing jeans is seen to be inappropriate. Thus, the nun on seeing bare armed girls goes around ridiculously pinning paper sleeves so that the sight of such arms does not provoke desire. It would be more to the point if the person feeling desire was chastised than the ladies sporting the garment.

“The preacher thundered:
Never go with a man alone
Never alone
and even if you’re engaged
only passionless kisses.” 

The concept of a woman not to be trusted or as the other and the whole fear of female sexuality can be easily seen here. Religion and patriarchy aims to curb or through a veil on the sexuality of woman for this cannot be accepted. A woman may feel desire but she must never show it otherwise she is termed ‘loose’. Why should a woman not feel passion? Is it because she is supposed to be a man’s property and being overtly covetous of his property he wouldn’t want to ever worry about her not being satisfied with what charms he possessed?

These girls at the age of sixteen are brought up to fear the opposite sex, fear their own feminity and desires as well as have no idea of the gift of reproduction that their body possesses. They are sent out into a world where men can speak of the most intimate things in a joke while they as fine ladies do not even know why their bodies function as they do.
There is often a general belief prevalent that the less girls know of such matters the better as once they are wives they are ‘safe’. Eunice De Souza has merely charted her own experiences in this highly confessional poem but the pity lies in the fact that this is a shared experience of countless women even today.

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