“What Do Women Want?” is a metaphorical yet transparent poem by Addonizio, famous for her controversial poetry on women’s agendas and the battle of the sexes. About a woman who wants a red dress and what she wants to do with it, however, there is more to interpret and understand other than the literary concoction.
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What Do Women Want?
BY KIM ADDONIZIO
I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what’s underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty’s and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their cafe, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I’m the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I’ll pull that garment
from its hanger like I’m choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I’ll wear it like bones, like skin,
it’ll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.
Analysis of Addonizio’s “What Do Women Want?”
“What Do Women Want?” very clearly spells the demands of one woman, ”a red dress,” tight, back revealing, sleeveless and cheap. An item of clothing is what she described but underlying within it is a metaphor, symbolic of women’s free expression and power.
She wants to wear the red dress which is too tight leaving nothing to the imagination, the lack of sleeves and back serves the purpose even more. She wants to wear this dress, stand out because of the color, and yet blend in with the people because it’s cheap. She wants to walk down the streets and show everyone the dress. She wants to wear this dress till someone tears it off her. Much like this paragraph, the emphasis of her demands was presented in the form of usage of “I want” multiple times in the poem.
”She” expresses her desire in the most understandable form possible, a materialistic object. This materialistic object does not stand for anything until she tells the world about it and the world sees her with it. Every woman has an opinion, no, every human being has an opinion, a way of life. Just because of their sex, women were oppressed.
The speaker used this metaphor to strengthen her claim and give birth to a new willpower which will serve the purpose of sticking to her until she dies and she will die holding onto it, that is what the ”dress” is meant to be, a woman’s ”thought”.
The ending stanza shows her attachment to the dress which she claims, she will take to her grave. The dress, aforementioned, serves as a metaphor towards a woman’s opinion which was shunned in the earlier history of modern age and still follows suit in a larger part of this world. ”She” wants to stand against it and demands her rights to her “dress” and she will take her “dress” showing it off to everyone.