(ALTERNATIVELY TITLED, THINGS I WISH I HAD BEEN TOLD AS A LITTLE GIRL)
The world is going to try and break you down –
You’re going to make mistakes –
You are only given one body in this life –
Girls like girls,
Don’t be afraid to ask questions,
Have you ever noticed
How some of the most powerful things,
From great ships to destructive war machines
Are referred to as “she”?
And how women are compared to
And the ever mysterious sirens of mythology?
So why has society always told me I must be
That I must be clever,
But not too clever;
Pretty, but not so pretty
As to intimidate.
I’ve spent my life in a box too small for
My mind opening up and threatening
To spill out of the corners and
Flood my surroundings with
Inappropriate opinions and loud observations.
I was told that to be a woman was to be
They said I fight like a girl,
And I didn’t understand why that was an insult
When I asked, all they said was
“It just is”.
And now, when someone tells me I fight like a girl,
I say “Good, you should too.”
Because a woman is a war machine
And can destroy your fragile ego in a fraction of the time it took
To tear ours down.
As Laurel Thatcher Ulrich once said,
“Well behaved women seldom make history.”
So watch in awe as I
Rewrite the rules of this war
And fight it like a girl.
I consider myself a feminist. I used to hate the term and the stigma surrounding it, and I still sometimes find myself doubting the adjective, as much as I hate to admit it. It’s not that I don’t feel that women – and everyone else, for that matter – are equal to men. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s simply because of the social stigma and negative connotations surrounding feminism and feminist beliefs.
When I was younger, it never really occurred to me that women may be inferior to men. I’ve grown up in a family full of strong, independent, and powerful women, many of whom I’ve watched firsthand go through Hell and back with a smile on their face. So, even as a young girl, I felt that I, as a woman (or budding woman, I should say), was just as powerful and capable as a man. However, looking back, I realize that I always felt I should be more of a tomboyish girl, that people won’t like a feminine girl or taker her seriously. I went through a phase where I didn’t wear earrings (or jewelry at all, for that matter), and dresses and skirts were completely out of the question, even though I’d often find myself longing for the freedom I felt in a skirt and envying the girls who would wear dresses to school. As you can probably tell, I’ve always been a jumble of contradictions.
It wasn’t until I was about 13 years old that I began to experiment with fashion (as is evident in my beyond cringe-worthy school photos), which was also when I started educating myself on feminist philosophy. Coincidence? Probably not. Learning about feminism was so freeing. It wasn’t until I began educating myself on the topic that I began to accept the fact that I am, in fact, a female, and that is more than okay to be a woman. Teen Vogue certainly helped me to find women outside of my family to look up to as role models, along with helping me to find my style and learning how fashion and feminism can work in harmony. One of my favorite articles, which I have hanging on my bedroom wall right above my workspace, is by Arabelle Sicardi. It’s called “Hair? Don’t Care”*, and it talks about body hair and the fact that women do have it, and that’s it is your choice as a person to do whatever you want with it. One of my favorite quotes of hers, which she said while discussing the time she started shaving, reads: “not for my own comfort but so they wouldn’t look at me like I failed girlhood.” That one really struck home for me, and made me analyze the way I dress and take care of myself hygienically. Did I do things because I wanted to, or because it was what I was “supposed” to do?
Since reading that article, I wear dresses without shame and am unafraid to rock pink hair. I usually like to shave, but I sure as Hell don’t do it for anyone other than my own personal comfort. And, I’m not ashamed to say that my signature scent is men’s deodorant and a knock-off version of Viktor & Rolf’s Flower Bomb perfume. Why? Because there are no rules to being a woman. And if you take anything at all from this article, let it be just that.
* Sicardi, Arabelle. “Hair? Don’t Care.” Teen Vogue Apr. 2016: 64. Print.
Put the scalpel to my head
Slice me open
Take me apart and
Put me back together the way
I’m supposed to be
Mold me into your vision
Of beauty and grace
Make me one of your
Broken to perfection
Pick me apart
Glue me back together
I’ll have scars
But you can make it look
Like they’re not there
Put the scalpel to my head
Slice me open
Take me apart
And marvel at
The distorted image of who I am
Hips roll like hills in the valley
Aged and well traversed
But beautiful nonetheless
Flowers grow from cracks and crevices
Baby’s breath blooms from between thighs
The innocence of youth gone
Breasts sit like mountains
Atop the valley of the chest
Natural and ever appreciated by travelers
But they forget who owned the land in the first place –
The woman who has cradled it
And loved it whilst
Sailors and shepherds took advantage of
The sunlight radiating off her back
To grow their own
“I’m not like most girls,” I say,
as if somehow the only way to validate my existence
is to deny my femininity.
Society deems femininity as a weakness
like being female
is being a mistake.
I was catcalled regularly at 12 years old
and by the time I was 14 I had had
too many close encounters with
men who only wanted me for my body
because no matter how I dress or act, I am “asking for it”
and apparently identifying as a female is an open invitation to do
whatever the Hell you want
with my body.
In society’s eyes my body is a cheap roadside motel,
always open for anyone to stay for as long
as they wish.
Neon signs lit up high above me, and somehow you translate
“no vacancy” to “fuck me”.
I’m sorry, but my body is not a cheap motel
nor is it a closed bank with unlocked doors.
My body is sacred
and most importantly,
it belongs to me before it belongs
to anyone else.
And you damn well better know that if I let you in,
you must be really fucking special to me.