“For Every Woman” and “Call Me a Woman” – Part of 1970’s Women’s History

For Every Woman

Nancy R. Smith, copyright 1973

For every woman who is tired of acting weak when she knows she is strong,
there is a man who is tired of appearing strong when he feels vulnerable.

For every woman who is tired of acting dumb,
there is a man who is burdened with the constant expectation of “knowing everything.”

For every woman who is tired of being called “an emotional female,”
there is a man who is denied the right to weep and to be gentle.

For every woman who is called unfeminine when she competes,
there is a man for whom competition is the only way to prove his masculinity.

For every woman who is tired of being a sex object,
there is a man who must worry about his potency.

For every woman who feels “tied down” by her children,
there is a man who is denied the full pleasures of shared parenthood.

For every woman who is denied meaningful employment or equal pay,
there is a man who must bear full financial responsibility for another human being.

For every woman who was not taught the intricacies of an automobile,
there is a man who was not taught the satisfactions of cooking.

For every woman who takes a step toward her own liberation,
there is a man who finds the way to freedom has been made a little easier.

About this poem:
Beginning in 1973 I used the poem when I led women’s consciousness-raising workshops and retreats in Southern New England United Methodist churches. Seven of us founded a conference-level United Methodist Women’s Caucus and continued to use the poem in our work and presentations. This poem found its way around the world by word of mouth as part of the Women’s Movement and the many consciousness-raising groups in existence then. It spread from one women’s group to another, and over the next 10 years, I received at least one request each year from someone who wanted to reprint it. It also appeared in “Dear Abby” in 1988.

“For Every Woman” was of the same timeframe as the beginning of Ms. Magazine, Marilyn French’s The Women’s Room, Marlo Thomas’ Free to Be  album, and Helen Reddy’s hit song “I Am Woman.”

It is important to understand the women’s liberation context of this poem. Later, a Gender Subversion poster for gender questioners/creatives was published by an anarchist group without my knowledge. While I support the cause of the poster, I had no part in that adaptation.

This poem may be reproduced free of charge IF all of the following conditions are met:

  • The poem is complete and unchanged.
  • The poem is properly attributed:
    Copyright © 1973 Nancy R. Smith.
  • The author is notified by postal mail or email as indicated above.

***

Call Me a Woman 

Nancy R. Smith, copyright 1976

I am twenty-five And when I am called a girl I speak like a girl:
I flirt and giggle and play dumb.
But when I remember I am a woman,
I put away childish things And speak out, and share, and love.

I am thirty-six And when I am called a girl I think like a girl:
I feel incompetent so I serve and help the men around me.
But when I remember I am a woman,
I put away childish things And work and create and achieve.

I am fifty-two And when I am called a girl I understand like a girl:
I let others protect me from the world.
But when I remember I am a woman,
I put away childish things And decide, and risk, and live my own life.

About this poem:
This poem was also written during the 1970′s Women’s Movement. The last thing a woman wanted to be called was a “girl.” The poem shows how it felt to be called a “girl,” in the 1970s, and I believe this is still true today. (Note that this does not relate to the use of “girl” or “girl friend” by women among themselves.)

Both of these poems were published in Images: Women in Transition, compiled by Janice Grana (Nashville:The Upper Room, 1976)

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About Nancy Smith

Nancy Smith has 20 years’ experience in technical writing and management in software companies. She also has more than 20 years in Christian ministry as an educator, course designer, retreat leader, spiritual director, pastor, and coach. A United Methodist Deacon, Smith has her M.Div. from Boston University. She is a graduate of the Guild for Spiritual Guidance, and is certified in Spiritual Direction and Retreat Leadership from Boston College.
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3 Responses to “For Every Woman” and “Call Me a Woman” – Part of 1970’s Women’s History

  1. Frank Ober says:

    Dear Nancy: Jane and I read these together and were impressed and moved by what you had written. It spoke to me about what women have been exposed to and at the same time, recognized how it has affected men as well. These are wonderful and I am so glad that others recognized the power of how this behavior affects both sexes. And the fact that people are still requesting permission to share them in print all these years later is wonderful and uplifting! In the second poem “Call me a Woman”, I loved the way you recognized how you experienced things a little differently as you aged.. It reminded me of Paul’s little ditty of experiencing life “When I was a child, I thought as a child…” I am not sure of the passage but I am sure that you know just where it is and am aware of the full message. It is remarkable to me the times that I realize how differently I think of the past than when it was fresh in my mind y past VS years later. Time does affect how we perceive our past and I am grateful that I can still recall some of what I have experienced from a distance and with some  maturity and wisdom to temper the memory of the events.  Of course there are some things that I would prefer not to have in my memory banks and am glad that others are not aware of my memories. It is also amazing to me to talk with someone where we compare notes and find that my recollections are not quite the same as theirs, sometimes making my recollection seem faulty. Nancy, thank you so much for sharing these poems at this time! I really loved them both! Peace, Frank    

  2. Jaine Toth says:

    Dear Nancy,
    For Every Woman is, to me, one of the most important pieces on the subject of equality between men and women. Balance, balance, balance. Without it the world is out of equilibrium. I’ve referred to this many times when giving presentations on this topic (always with attribution). I didn’t find on this site a way to email or send a request by post, but I’m writing an article on women’s place in society and it include the topic which you so eloquently address. It would be posted on bahaiteachings.org and I request your permission to include For Every Woman.

    Thanks for your consideration – and for having written a classic timeless gift for humanity.

    jaine toth

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