I’ll probably be hanging onto the poetry collection Why God is a Woman by Nin Andrews for a long, long time. As a woman, reading this collection was an empowering and emotional experience. Through the use of fiction and poetry, Andrews creates a Utopian society where women are celebrated as the dominant sex, while men are sexualized, confined to the home, and limited to specific careers and ambitions. In this world, our speaker (who is male) struggles to conform. Through a series of prose poems, he protests the unfair treatment of men, and complains about catcalling, the lack of men in STEM related fields, and his culture’s obsession with the size of men’s wings. When our speaker criticizes this world, his father is quick to tell him that “girls will be girls” (30).
By flipping the traditional roles our society has assigned to men and women, Andrews is able to drastically shift reader’s viewpoints, completely altering what we see as truth. The writing is satirical and witty, showing readers the ridiculous and oftentimes infuriating world that we live in. For this reason, this collection is an important read not just for women, but for men too. In one of my favorite poems, the speaker talks about his society’s obsession with tattooed penises. It reads: “no woman will make love to a man who keeps his genital au naturel . . . Island boys, as young as five or six, are ashamed of their undecorated penises” (35). It is during moments like these when Why God is a Woman is at its funniest and most alarming.
Topics such as rape, the over-sexualization of toys (like barbie dolls), and women in the workplace are fearlessly addressed in Why God is a Woman. Andrews flawlessly critiques each of these issues, creating a parody of everything our society considers “normal.” One poem even goes as far as creating a doll called the “Boberto” which is “notable for its exaggerated male attributions, luxurious black hair, and mysterious smile” (46). Every Island boy owns one, despite some Islanders considering them to be “sexist depiction[s] of the male gender” (46). In another poem, Andrews attacks those who believe that women do not belong in the work place: “Scientists often quoted the working men who admitted their inability to repress their instinctive natures, i.e., a profound longing to have, hold, and nurture their own children” (18). As Hillary Clinton becomes the first woman in history to be nominated by a major party, poems such as these are especially relevant right now as individuals question her emotional ability to lead.
Why God is a Woman is an inventive and critical examination of our society. Even as the collection plunges into touchy subjects, it remains whimsical and fun. Andrews offers readers a fresh and interesting outlook. There are way too many great poems in Why God is a Woman for poetry lovers to not own it.
Cover of Why God is a Woman courtesy of BOA Editions LTD.
Buy Andrews’ collection here.
*As part of my goal to promote small presses, here is some information about BOA Editions LTD: “BOA Editions, Ltd., a not-for-profit publisher of poetry and other literary works, fosters readership and appreciation of contemporary literature. By identifying, cultivating, and publishing both new and established poets and selecting authors of unique literary talent, BOA brings high quality literature to the public. Support for this effort comes from the sale of its publications, grant funding, and private donations.”