Phenomenal Woman, Phenomenal Women

This image is a digital reworking of a painting I created in Australia called “Baubo”.  It was a tribute to a little-known goddess who appears in the legend of Demeter and Persephone. When Persephone was snatched to the Underworld by Hades, Demeter mourned her lost daughter, sought her all over the Earth but, in the seeking, neglected the well-being of the Earth. Demeter is supposed to have retreated to a cave where Baubo arrived to tempt the goddess back into the light by using raucous, vulgar jokes to get Demeter laughing again and to return to nurturing the Earth..

Baubo is a woman who isn’t conventional, who isn’t afraid to display vulgar humour, who uses her sexuality as a weapon of laughter. In that, she is phenomenal – she lives outside conventional society, is feisty, awesome and ultimately very powerful because she stands in her own right as a majestic, independent woman under the control of no-one except her own sense of herself as a mighty warrior in the world.

I created this in response to the recent Supreme Court ruling in the US in relation to Hobby Lobby where a majority of old men, beholden to big business, decided that a corporation was a person with a religious viewpoint and therefore entitled to decide what health care it will pay in relation to women’s reproductive rights.

To these old men I say: “You can poke your ruling where the sun don’t shine. You cannot put us back in a box. You cannot keep us barefoot and pregnant. We will not tolerate being treated as less than human beings. We are powerful beings who refuse to live on our knees in front of old men who value profit before the rights half of the population in the US. We will continue to organise to tear apart the chains of past servitude imposed by a misogynist society just as we – luscious, juicy, powerful women – will use raucous laughter, satire and bawdiness to ridicule, organise and defeat your rancid ruling”.

I have added two poems to this image: Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou and Homage to my Hips by Lucille Clifton.

Phenomenal Woman
Phenomenal Woman



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.

these hips are big hips.
 they need space to move around in.
they don’t fit into little petty places.
these hips are free hips.
they don’t like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them to put a spell on a man and spin him like a top
–  Lucille Clifton


10 thoughts on “Phenomenal Woman, Phenomenal Women

  1. Shall we forward your remarkable and excellent image to the US Supreme Court? You could do some good. I think Justice Ginsburg would be willing to share it with her colleagues. And that Maya Angelou poem… next time a guy asks me “what is it about women?” I will refer him to that poem. Thanks! 🙂


    1. Actually we could perhaps encourage Justice Ginsburg to dress up as that image and frighten the daylights out of the silly old gits on the Supreme Court so they reverse their decision. And Yes, I love that poem of Maya Angelou, glad you liked it.


  2. Thank you for your fighting words (“You cannot put us back in a box….“). Sometimes I’m discouraged by the fact that we have to keep fighting this battle over and over. I mean, didn’t we do this already in the ’60s? Too many of us thought we had won and became complacent.


    1. Thanks for your supportive comments, Ann, I agree with you, it’s a constant battle to advance women’s rights and sometimes you feel like you’re on one of those moving travelators – you get so far, then end up a few steps back again.


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