On Being a Muse

Something a little bit radgey that I wrote for uni…a response to ‘A Woman Poet: Her Dilemma’ by Eavan Boland and ‘When We Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision‘ by Adrienne Rich.

How many pining love songs and desolate poems are written about women? Not active women, but still, beautiful, statues of women. How many times a day are we beaten round the head with mentions of soft hair and saucer eyes? Penning a poem or a song purely about a woman’s looks makes the writer no better than the Daily Mail. Stunning curves? Pouting lips? Drive some pretentious metaphor through it if you like, but it will mean the same thing. A rose by any other name still smells as nauseating.

All of these writers show women as meek, bland, obedient vessels; for baby making and sex. They are a gorgeous open mouth and a vagina on legs. Of course deep down they have a wild side, that is brought out in the bedroom to please their partner, but this side scares the writer. So they keep it under wraps. Or they vilify her for it: her skirt’s too short, slut, she won’t sleep with me so she’s a bitch. I’ll write about her like she’s a mermaid on a rock, tits out, unreachable, otherworldly.


How many poems, books, songs have you come across that were written by a woman about a man? Not about his job or his role as a husband or a father or a lover. But a poem, say, that a woman just had to write, because a man was so beautiful. That only described the curve of his shoulder and the small curls around his neck. That contained no anger? Not about some wanker who cheated, who left and controlled. But a piece of work, art, dedicated to the unmoving sculpture of a man?

Not many. Because men aren’t unmoving. They aren’t just fathers and husbands, they are managers and friends and soldiers and drivers. They shout, pace, cry, slap, sleep. It is 2013; women are all these things, and do all these things too. Why then, in art, are they so often reduced to their looks?

Maybe porn has a part to play. The rest of the world is changing and evolving. But in porn, the muse lays down and takes it. She is a cartoon character, bambi in pleather, the long hair of childhood. Pumped full of plastic till she resembles a blow up doll, the perfect receptacle. She doesn’t talk, except to say ‘please’; as nameless and static as The Girl With the Pearl Earring.


Women are not just the subject anymore. They are the action. Their role in the world has changed, and they will start to leave the old school in the dust; so art, literature, music (and the Daily Mail) had better catch them up.

5 responses to “On Being a Muse

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