Saturday, June 1, 2013

June 2013 Poetry Challenge - Learning Gender Roles

            I grew up in a home occupied by my grandparents, my mother (who was divorced) and my older sister. I never questioned the idea that grandfather would work outside the home while grandmother would do most of the cooking and cleaning. I think I figured out at an early age that Mother had to work in a store because she no longer had a husband to support her and her daughters. Two of my uncles had Masters’ degrees. Mother had to drop out of high school because she had severe headaches caused by an accident. I don’t think any of my many aunts had a college education, though at least one taught school for a while.
            All these aspects of my family story impacted my view of gender roles and my feelings about what I can and cannot do. But my views changed overtime. After my mother remarried, I learned from Dad that men can do the laundry and mop the floors. I learned from the culture of the community where I grew up and from my high school that women do go to college and can become professionals. That was one advantage of growing up in Iowa City, home of the University of Iowa.
            Was there a difference in activities and roles between males in females when you were a child? Sandy Stark wrote a poem about her mother crossing a gender barrier, and how it impacted her.

Learning to Fish
The men in my mother’s family fished;
the women served the food and drinks.
My mother got in the boat to change things,
so I grew up learning to fish:  how to read
the weather, water, and shore line,
to find the deepest holes in the lake,
how to bait and cut loose the hook,
to gut and clean for a pan fry.

Most girls I knew then didn’t do that.
They cooked the fish instead,
pretended to need help putting
their own two feet in a barely rocking boat,
thought fishing was something you did
for a compliment—or a date with a guy.

Now I fish for words to tell a mother
who wished I’d married the biggest fish
in the sea that she really did all right
getting me in this boat: 
I know how to watch things,
I know how to find them,
I can cut my losses when I have to,
and I don’t think a good fish story
is the same thing as a lie.

~ Sandy Stark

(From Counting on Birds by Sandy Stark (Fireweed Press, 2010)

Sandy Stark’s poems have appeared in the Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar, the Texas Poetry Calendar, the former Wisconsin Academy Review, and Verse Wisconsin. She is retired from teaching literature and business communication skills, most recently at UW-Madison. She lives in Madison.

June Challenge: A Poem about changing views of gender roles

For this month, write a poem about what and who influenced your view of gender roles, or how they changed over the years.

Your poem can be free verse or formal. If formal, please specify the form. Poems of 40 or fewer lines are preferred.

Please submit only one poem during any particular month.

The deadline is June 15. Poems submitted after the June 15 deadline will not be considered.

Copyright on poems is retained by their authors.

Due to formatting difficulties, I prefer that poems be left justified and not have indentations or spaces in the middle of lines.

Poems published in books or on the Internet (including Facebook and other on-line social networks) are not eligible. If your poem has been published in a periodical, you may submit it if you retain copyright, but please include publication data.

How to Submit Your Poem:

Send your poem to wildamorris[at]ameritech[dot]net (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for [dot]. Be sure provide your e-mail address. When you submit your poem, add a note indicating where you took poetic license with the facts of your life. The poem should be in first person, as if it actually happened to the speaker in the poem. Submission of a poem gives permission for the poem to be posted on the blog if it is a winner, so be sure that you put your name, exactly as you would like it to appear if you do win, at the end of the poem.

© 2013 Wilda Morris