The lady in red starts by addressing "you." She has loved you intensely for eight months, two weeks, and a day without any encouragement. She has even left packages on your doorstep. When you call at three in the morning, she drives across the bay to meet you. However, she wants to let you know that her overeager behavior has simply been an experiment for her to "see how selfish [she] cd be" if "[she] waz capable of debasin [herself] for the love of another" (28). She has consequently decided to end this affair and has left a note is attached to the plant that she watered every day she knew you, telling you that now, you can water it "yr damn self" (28).
The lady in orange says she does not want to write in either English or Spanish, but she only wants to dance. Words have no definitions when she starts to move her hips. A Willie Colon song comes on, and all the women on stage start to dance. The lady in red describes their bodies like mangos moving around in space. She says that she is from the Lower East Side of New York City but then has to stop talking - she must keep dancing to keep from crying. The other women repeat the lady in orange's chant that they must dance to keep from crying and dying. The lady in orange then claims that she is a poet "who writes in english / come to share the worlds witchu" (30).
Suddenly, the light changes and the women react as if they have been struck. The woman in blue muses that it is hard to press charges against a friend. The other women murmur that maybe it was a misunderstanding, or the woman caused it, and they ask her if she was drinking. The lady in red states most of society only considers a rape to be legitimate if the rapist is a perverted stranger with all kinds of problems. A man whom you have danced with in public and softly kissed goodbye, however, does not fit into society's standard image of "rapist."
The women talk about male friends of theirs who buy them dinner and have nice smiles but are still capable of inviting over friends who take advantage of women. The lady in red bitterly comments that the intellectual men suffer from "latent rapist bravado" while leaving the women "wit the scars" (33). The women all share the experience of having been violated by a man they knew while being on the lookout for dangerous "rapists." However, the lady in blue assures the others (and the audience) that even if the rape victim once considered her rapist to be a friend, he is "no less worthy of bein beat within an inch of his life."
The lady in red comments that the "nature of rape has changed." Rapists can be anywhere, they may even be friendly dinner guests who are capable of raping these women in their own homes.
The lights change, the women react to an imaginary slap and the lady in red and the lady in purple exit the stage.
In “no assistance,” the lady in red talks about the physical and emotional sacrifices she has made for love. She speaks describes pursuing a man even after he has stood her up and waiting for him to acknowledge her gifts and notes. However, she comes to her senses and appears to be embarrassed by her desperate behavior. Perspective and distance allow her to examine her actions in a more objective way and she reacts with a regret and disbelief, which she turns into empowerment. She had been putting her energy into debasing herself for him, but has since realized that her independence is more important than keeping the "plant" (a symbol for their one-sided love) alive. Her ability to leave the plant behind and instruct her disinterested lover to water it is indicative of the lady in red's growing self-respect.
In “i’m a poet who,” the lady in orange eschews writing (in either English or Spanish) in favor of expressing herself through music and dance. The stage directions indicate that another Willie Colon song should play during this scene and the women all come together to dance to it. The lady in orange is proud of her roots - she is from Lower East Side, a New York neighborhood which is traditionally home to working-class immigrants (during Shange's time, it would have had mostly Puerto Rican, African American, and Jewish residents). These women all dance even after they lose the ability to speak - they dance to keep from crying or dying. This is an example of Shange's belief that self-expression is crucial to survival.
Scholar Sandra Richards wrote an article on for colored girls... in which she explores the way Shange uses music and dance. She claims that “the will to divinity” is a main theme in Shange's work, “whereby individual protagonists seek to transcend corporal existence in order to merge with natural, cosmic forces.” In this particular poem, the women are able to achieve this kind of uninhabited glory through music and dance. Richard writes, “energy and spirit-forces complete in and of themselves and potent modes for the manipulation of more profound insights.” The words themselves become the rhythm as they chant, “we come here to be dancing / to be dancing / to be dancing / baya” (30).
Shange foreshadows the harsh content of “latent rapists” with the stage direction right before it, asking the 7 actresses to react as if they have been slapped. The figurative "slap in the face" in "latent rapists" is that although these women have grown up with the idea that a rapist is some kind of perverted stranger who attacks young women on the street, they have discovered that rape is much more likely to occur between friends.
In fact, they address the ambiguity that surrounds date-rape, asking one another questions like, “you must have wanted it” “are you sure / you didn’t suggest / had you been drinkin” (31). This is Shange's way of invoking society's blame-the-victim mentality (which sadly is still a problem). The "changing nature of rape" is scary in that it comes from people whom the victim does not "Expect/like the stranger/we always thot waz comin." The women refer to their lasting scars but claim that the patriarchal society does not punish the rapists, assuming that "women relinquish all personal rights in the presence of a man."
Scholar Sandra Hollin Flowers reflects on the frequent criticism that Shange's portrayal of black men in for colored girls... is one-sided and overtly negative. Flowers believes that it has been notoriously difficult to politicize sexual assault within the African American community because it is very male-centered and feminism can often be anti-male.
There issue of rape within the African American community also invokes the historical pattern of white women falsely accusing black men of rape in the pre-Civil Rights era. Flowers concludes, "the history of these persecutions, however, does not remove the black woman's need for a political consciousness about rape, such as the traditionally feminist one Shange articulates." Ultimately, Shange's intent is to create a safe space for women to have this necessary but painful dialogue.