Cover of this title
Phenomenal Woman
Maya Angelou

These lines reinforce the value of inner beauty, female courage and self-confidence while scrutinising gender clichés and given social standards. The speaker presents herself not as pretty, cute or “built to fit a fashion model’s size” (line 2), but as strong, proud, mysterious, in one word: phenomenal. Rejecting gender stereotypes, the strong voice encourages and empowers women to be proud of who they are – despite society’s standards for female beauty and behaviour.

As a child, Maya Angelou experienced sexual assault. Later, she became involved in the sex industry and reflected on her experience with rape and sexual violence in her autobiographies. 

· · 1995

Critical edition

Angelou, Maya. "Phenomenal Woman." Maya Angelou: The Complete Poetry, Virago, 2015, p. 126. 60 l., ISBN 9780349006215

Jump to further sections

In favour of this entry

  • Democratic and political education
  • Gender equality
  • Silenced voices
  • Students can identify with the text