From Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, Sherry Ceniza questions Whitman’s representation of women in his poetry.  Overall she presents a favorable opinion of his treatment of women.  Aside from his focus on women as domestic rather than working outside the home and their portrayal as “dutiful wives” in “A Woman Waits for Me” and “I Sing the Body Electric” (Kummings & LeMaster 798), Whitman speaks to women as strong mothers, strong beings and invites them into public life.

It is his analogy of birthing to creating Leaves of Grass and the “Mother to All” on which I choose to focus.  Ceniza explains, “Birthing always held top value for Whitman, who, in many ways, saw literal birthing and the creation of Leaves as analogous” (Kummings & LeMaster 798).  This  use of a women’s physical experience in describing his own beautiful creation allows one to see the great importance Whitman places on women and the birthing experience.  Donald E. Hall in “Literary and Cultural Theory” describes the work of Elizabeth Grosz in “Volatile Bodies” to explain the work of post-structuralist feminists.  He writes, “She suggests that by examining women’s corporeal experiences-including childbirth and menstruation-male-centered norms can be challenged without resorting to an essentialism that erases the ways in which our bodies are given meaning through social customs and our language system”(209-210).

Therefore in using women’s bodily experience in comparison to his own work and detailing their strength, Whitman breaks free from the “phallocentric” norm and gives great import to female imagery.

Though not fully feminist, his work appears to contribute more toward gender equality than it would take away.