April 18, 2019
Rhetorical Analysis of “Hombres necios que acusáis”
The setting is Mexico city, in New Spain during the late half of the 17th century. Sor Juana Inés de La Cruz, a young woman (Shown on the $20 peso due to her importance in hispanic and more specifically Mexican culture) has completed a poem titled “Hombres necios que acusáis”. This amazing piece of literature was completed by a woman, a nun during a time when receiving an education for women was no easy task. Furthermore, this woman not only has written a beautiful poem, but it is also a critique of society, of the challenges and difficulties women face and how men create double standards which are unfair to women. A poem written so many hundreds of years ago, when broken down still discusses some of the same issues facing society today yet her words still continue to inspire many to seek change and equality. During this time, Spain and many parts of the world were in the baroque era, a literary movement which does not talk about all the happiness life brings but rather, highlights some of the more pessimistic things going on within their countries or personal lives; Due to this, two motifs arose in poetry , those being Carpe Diem (Seize the day) and Memento Mori (remember you must die). “Hombres necios que acusáis” is a poem that is highly associated with this literary movement in Spain as it talks about the difficulties and stigmatization that women face, it is a call to the reality that during this time women are not seen as equals and they are from from being treated as equals. You can also see the motif of Memento Mori in her poem enhancing her argument of equality. Looking at De la Cruz’s work, one must appreciate the rhetorical strategies she uses to strengthen her argument of equality such as her tone, the ethos she has being a woman living during the time in which it is written and a few other rhetorical strategies. The main focus of the poem is to point out the flaws with the arguments men use against women as well as advocating for equality between men and women. It is important to note that some of the words in the poem when translated to english do not have the same impact as they do in their native language however, nonetheless they are still significant and resonate with her message.
The poem begins with an accusatory tone when De la Cruz says, “Silly you men- so very adept at wrongly faulting womankind”, right away she criticizes men about the way they accuse women kind of acting in a lewd manner or without restraint for lust actions. She then goes on throughout poem continuing with this same tone talking about how men are the ones responsible for a woman making herself “impure” as they constantly persist at getting their attention and getting them into the bedroom. At the start of paragraph four, her tone changes from accusatory to a callous tone, we see this in that entire paragraph where she compares men to a child that makes up a monster and then begins to fear it and its actions. In paragraph 5, the cruelty she displays towards men unravels where she says that when men try to court a women, he treats her like the Tais, a strong and beautiful woman who accompanied Alexander the Great on some of his conquests yet when he [men] has her in his possession, he treats her like Lucrecia, a fictional character that symbolizes the weakness of women. This attack at men demonstrates a double standard that men hold for women as when men do not have the girl of their interests, they see them as powerful and intelligent beings that are independent and cable of amazing features however, once they get what they want from a women they treat them as lesser beings that rely solely on men for everything. In addition this, she also says that men then see the woman as easy for letting herself commit such a sinful act despite these same men being the persistent one’s in their goal of sleeping with her or at the very least committing acts which were deemed as awful in society’s eyes. We see evidence for this in this sixth paragraph where she says, “¿Qué humor puede ser más raro que el que, falto de consejo, él mismo empaña el espejo y siente que no esté claro?” which translates to “What a strange humor that the one who fogs up the mirror, who lacks common sense, then complains that the mirror isn’t clear.” This goes directly with what she argues about how it is so ironic and dumb that these same men who have tried so desperately to taint a woman’s purity for their own sexual desire can then turn around and call a woman easy or slut shame her.
“Sor Juana celebrated woman as the seat of reason and knowledge rather than passion. Her famous poem “Hombres necios” (“Foolish Men”) accuses men of the illogical behaviour that they criticize in women. (Merrim).” All of these points can also be seen as an appeal to logos as she does make great points about how it is not logical for one to be trying everything in their power to persuade someone to do something but, as that person finally agrees to participate in the activity that was so desperately sought out, they are then called weak and a vast amount of other adjectives which diminishes their character and puts them as not the victim, but as the one seeking to indulge in sexual acts in the first place. The tone only enhances her appeal to logos as much of the tone is sarcastic, ironic, accusatory, or callous all of which require knowledge about the topics in which they are used in to be successful, and successful they are in conveying her message to her audience.
Anytime when writing about a particular topic whether it be through the mediums of poetry, novels, or any other form of art and literature, a huge component of what makes a piece so great is its appeal to pathos. Emotions are one of the strongest things people experience and when playing with our emotions, we as humans can be manipulated (not necessarily a bad thing) to feel a certain way and then have an opinion about something formed from whatever caused our emotions to flare up. Sor Juana is no exception to this, in a translation by genius.com she says, “I well know what powerful arms you wield in pressing for evil: your arrogance is allied with the world, the flesh, and the devil!.” The powerful; diction sets a tone of hostility and fear which appeals to our emotions in two ways, if you’re reading this as a woman, it alerts you to be cautious of the villainies of men who are arrogant like the world around them which she says correlates with the devil. This causes a woman who is reading this to feel remorse for men, to feel a distance and cold towards them and in a way, by saying this alone she gets their emotions to spite the cruel actions of men, the actions that will damn a woman. Reading this from a mans perspective, this is an insult towards the behavior of men and the initial reaction for this may be to discredit what it is that she says and take offense to it however, once coming over this obstacle and looking at it more closely without taking too much offense to it, it may cause a man to realise how they have treated women and have caused them to feel this way about the actions of men and then we sympathize for them and the mistreatment we have bestowed upon them. It appeals to our emotions even more just with the fact that she is a woman because once again, from the perspective of both biological senses, we can sympathize and empathize with her, women obviously for experiencing all it is that she is talking about even to this day, and men for the realization of how they have belittled women but are reminded in this poem that women are independent and are intelligent, how they too are humans and really are no different from man. While this (Writing about a topic that affects women as a woman) is a nice bow tie to her appeal towards pathos, it ultimately ties into her ethos or in other words, her credibility to even write about this subject.
One of the most important things in an essay and other forms of literature is the author’s credibility on their topic of interest. In Sor Juana Ines de La Cruz’s case, she could not have been a better candidate for the equality of women during her time. She after all, was a nun, an educated individual, and most importantly, a woman. Throughout her entire poem of “Hombres necios que acusáis”, she brings up a plethora of points from a woman’s perspective which could have only been seen through a woman’s eyes and have been deemed credible for not only does she too experience this kind of treatment but she has grown up in a society and culture that clearly have distinguished roles and behaviors for men and women. As she also was an educated and beautiful woman, she was highly sought after and prized by many men of her time which again enhances the strength of her argument towards the treatment of women by men. As Kirk points out, her ability to take life experiences and write about them in her poetry creates an unmatched and unquestionable level of truth because it is from her first hand experience towards this behavior that she can write about it so passionately in her poetry. Finally, as a nun and once again this being a role specifically for women in which they swear a life free of sex, she was still sought out by men knowing the vows nuns take to refrain from sex in the name of God. despite this, they did attempt to persuade her to enjoy their company with her and taint her but she of course remained free from this temptation. All of these different roles she has had in society and all the experiences she has gathered from her life makes her without a doubt a very credible source to her poetry and message and it helps to spread her message as she is an expert in what she is talking about in this poem. This, apart from the points made in the poem is a major reason why she is still studies today, why she was seen as so important to society as to put her on the 20 peso bill, and why feminist look to her as a powerful figure in which they can aspire to be.
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz may have been alive more than three hundred years ago, but her messages about equality and the unjust treatment of women remain an issue today. She is considered to be one of North America’s first feminists and a crucial women for the feminist movement in the 1970’s. If there is anything that her words in her poem of “Hombres necios que acusáis” that we should take to heart is that we as men must stop slutshaming women and perceiving them as easy if they do decide to engage in passionate activities with us, we must view them as an equal counterpart to men, we must stop the hypocrisy and double standards we place unto women, and we must learn admire women as more than a mere pleasure for carnal desires. While I am not advocating for men to kneel down before women and accept women as better beings, I certainly am also not suggesting that we continue to turn a blind eye to the injustices women face today. If we continue to follow the footsteps of our ancestors in their actions towards women, then we are no better than they are and we cannot move towards a world of peace and true equality. In the analysis of “Hombres necios que acusáis” by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz I hope to have left you with the image of how powerful a woman she was, and how impactful her message in this poem truly is.
Works Cited Page
“Kirk Stephanie.” Romance Languages and Literatures, 2 Apr. 2019, rll.wustl.edu/people/stephanie-kirk.
This piece talks about the literature pieces from some times in the oast by a few authors of the romance languages and their impacts on society.
Kirk, Stephanie. “Sor Juana Inés De La Cruz and the Gender Politics of Knowledge in Colonial Mexico.” Taylor & Francis, Taylor & Francis, 23 June 2016, www.taylorfrancis.com/books/9781317052579.
This reference discusses the works of De La Cruz and how it contributes to the feminist movement and advocating for equality. It also talks about the society of Colonial Mexico and how her works tie in with the politics of that time.
Merrim, stephanie. “Feminist Perspectives on Sor Juana In.” Google Books, 1999, books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=bm6VuMA-W3oC&oi=fnd&pg=PA11&dq=Analysis%2Bof%2Bfoolish%2Bmen%2Bby%2Bsor%2BJuana%2BInes&ots=mqRbk1NnAL&sig=77Qx-h0R-l0tHzC6LnktVM6T6Tw#v=onepage&q=foolish%20men&f=false.
This is an analysis of De La Cruz’s works and how it contributes to the feminist argument. Furthermore, it talks about the viewpoints of active feminist members and how her work coincides with the messages they want to get across and their goals.
Merrim, Stephanie. “Sor Juana Inés De La Cruz.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 13 Apr. 2019, http://www.britannica.com/biography/Sor-Juana-Ines-de-la-Cruz.