Thursday, 10 March 2011


Sometimes my boyfriend calls me his 'bird'. Men in England do this, it seems. For unexplainable and irrational reasons, I kind of like it.

But there's something to this bird thing. In women's literature, it's EVERYWHERE...

Mary Wollstonecraft writes, "Confined in cages like the feathered race, [women] have nothing to do but to plume themselves, and stalk with mock majesty from perch to perch" (62).

In "A Jury of Her Peers", Susan Glaspell describes Minnie Foster as a bird (through the voice of Martha Hale) saying, "She was kind of like a bird herself. Real sweet and pretty, but kind of timid and--fluttery. How--she--did--change." 

Maya Angelou famously wrote I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

The sirens, of course, in Homer's Odyssey are bird-women, seducing men to their death's with their unearthly voices.

Goddesses in all kinds of ancient cultures--including the goddess Lilith, for example--have been associated with birds.

What's the deal?

I grew up not liking birds. My mom likes birds and flowers and all kinds of pretty, delicate things (as did her mom), so generally, I avoided them, choosing not to identify with this part of my maternal inheritance. I tended to think of birds as silly, dirty, annoying, insignificant creatures.

I'm beginning to change my mind.

The coexistence of delicacy and power in some birds reminds me all too much of the human condition, including its female half, of course.

And though birds preen and nest and feed, some of the 'womanly things' in which I've never (yet) become especially interested, they also SING. They also FLY.,r:15,s:23&biw=1257&bih=592,r:22,s:205&biw=1255&bih=582,r:19,s:65&biw=1255&bih=582

1 comment:

  1. I like how you mentioned the contrast between birds' "delicacy and power." For me, flying is sinonymous with independence and freedom; it is empowering. If women are associated with these creatures, it would be sad for them to be "confined in cages" as Wollstonecraft says. It diminishes them in every single way to beings only admired for their physical appearance when they have so much more to offer.