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While there are some aspects of Taslima Nasrin’s poems that specifically relate to life in Bangladesh, the feminist themes are very relevant in America – and across the world – today. Her poem “Character” begins with a message that is drilled into women’s heads from the start: “You’re a girl/ and you’d better not forget” (401). Nasrin describes how men will always call women names and look at them in ways that make them uncomfortable. Women are taught that “boys will be boys,” and they must be the ones who have to learn to defend themselves, instead of men being taught not to harass women. Because “you’re a girl,” you’re taught to accept men’s inappropriate behavior and to live with it, no matter how uncomfortable or frightened you are. However, Nasrin turns this poem into an encouraging message for women. “If you’ve got no character/ you’ll turn back,” she writes, “and if not/ you’ll keep going,/ as you’re going now” (402). Here, the poet encourages women to live their lives despite the men who harass them. One can’t simply stay in her house forever, being afraid of what she will face when she goes outside. Women have to acknowledge what the world is like, yes, but they should use that acknowledgement to learn to stand strong in a world that is often against them.

“At the Back of Progress…” is another poem that is particularly relevant to American society today. Nasrin writes, “The fellow who sits in the air-conditioned office/is the one who in his youth raped/ a dozen or so young girls/… This fellow gives out character references for people” (403). The poem describes a man who treats women horribly, yet he gets away with it because people see him as a “good man” and would never suspect “how foul his language could be/ how vile his behavior” (403). With the rise of the “Me Too” movement, there was a lot of backlash toward the accusers because so many “good men” were accused of assault, and those accusations could “ruin them.” As we see in this poem and in recent media, however, this is not the case. A powerful man can be accused of sexual assault and still remain in power, if not gaining more. Nasrin’s poem shows readers that one can never know what goes on behind closed doors; just because someone seems like a good person in public doesn’t mean they behave that way in private. This is always important to keep in mind, but it is especially so in America’s current political climate.

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