Study Guide

Women Stanza 3

By Louise Bogan

Stanza 3

Lines 9-10

They wait, when they should turn to journeys,
They stiffen, when they should bend.

  • And here's something else women aren't doing right—sheesh. When they should be taking off on a traveling adventure, our speaker says they just wait around.
  • They also "stiffen, when they should bend." This sounds like advice you might get at a yoga studio, but we get the feeling that our speaker is busting out the figurative language here.
  • One way to think of this is in terms of that figurate expression about having a "stiff spine." It means that you're strong, resilient, even stubborn.
  • Here, though, women seem to pick the wrong time to stand up for themselves. They should be more flexible ("bend") at these times, instead.
  • Wrong again, women (says our speaker).

Lines 11-12

They use against themselves that benevolence
To which no man is friend.

  • According to the speaker, bad quality #8,934 of women is that they use their own kindness ("benevolence") against themselves.
  • That seems hard to do, but we get a bit more explanation in line 12. It seems that no man is "friend" to this kindness. Another way to think of this is that men don't really care about, or pay attention to, the kindness that women show them. That seems to say as much about those inattentive fellas as it does about the kind and doting ladies. Can anyone do anything right in our speaker's eyes?
  • Nope—it seems like all those good deeds are a total waste of energy. In that way, it's easier to see how this goodness can be used against women. Our speaker seems to think that they should stop wasting their breath by being so darn nice to men.