women’s studies

1/30/13

women’s studies

You think feminist and hope it applies.

You hear feminist and want to hear me quote something furious

and profound always quick and on the tip of my tongue

addressing and including everyone marked with the double-X:

us daughters of cain.

but what I want to say is not PC because I too have been

taught and told and marketed and still I am inclined to believe

my grandmother knows more about being a woman

with her scrapbook of wedding photos, that holocaust bride

waving to herself in the pearl mirror,

who went on to survive every member of her family

(the men going first)

her grief poised and dignified and ex-

cruciating

her mourning period unending/more a woman

than any pierced and fidgeting barista

head shaved beneath her bandana

overcharging me for coffee and space to clear my mind

but again here I am just how they taught me

comparing and disdaining

I will not stop paying 19.99 plus shipping and handling for

each new European hair removal device

HAIR OFF SMOOTH AWAY LASER THIS MOTHERFUCKER

even when you tell me how I have internalized the patriarchy

how it lives inside me now.

I will wear my skirts short and I will happily admit that both of the following

are true: sometimes it is terrible, these noises shouted each time you leave

your house and sometimes it is liberating to be called beautiful with no

response expected.

You hear that I am a feminist and you want answers

NOW

and also to know that I am certain of them and together we are unshakeable stoppable.

here: what I have for you

is this poem.

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One thought on “women’s studies

  1. Annotation/reflection:
    This poem was begun years ago and finished recently. In its undone-ness I read it at an open mic to all? (mostly) women. My process of writing and performing it is perhaps the most powerful I have ever felt in discussing misogyny, which is why I chose to begin this portfolio-blog -blogofolio- with this piece. Additionally, it is very personal and that seemed the right way to begin…not to mention the fact that it gave me the title for this blog. The fact that it is MINE makes it especially interesting (to me) to dissect:

    for example, there are clearly some issues with gender presentation going on:
    “more a woman
    than any pierced and fidgeting barista
    head shaved beneath her bandana
    overcharging me for coffee and space to clear my mind
    but again here I am just how they taught me
    comparing and disdaining”

    that I do seem to be aware of- comparing and disdaining- and yet I also see a pretty problematic gender and sexuality policing that goes beyond “comparing.” Reflecting on this bit, especially in the context of how I continue to feel the need to defend my own gendered choices:
    shaving, waxing, straightening, flaunting.

    These choices always bring me back to what “choice” even means: because sometimes it feels like a choice and it may always be a technical choice to do my hair or shave my pits but really- sometimes the choice seems just between feeling good about myself and desirable (to men I suppose) or not. Which is not much of a choice. Then there’s the Whiteness- it means relatively little for me to straighten or not straighten my curly Jewish hair. For a Black woman all of the choices may involve the touching, comments, preferences, disdain, or praise of others. For an Asian or Latina woman it may involve coveting or touching or commenting or any other number of intensely unacceptable reactions.

    I also wonder about this bit:
    “I will happily admit that both of the following
    are true: sometimes it is terrible, these noises shouted each time you leave
    your house and sometimes it is liberating to be called beautiful with no
    response expected.”

    How much it is true – how much my reaction fluctuates between the immense frustration/anger/fear and the small bit of pleasure, frightens me. Is this the dichotomy the male gaze set out to create? In two days, as part of my group’s activity on transphobia/cissexism/gender presentation and performance, I will go to all my classes (including this one) with no makeup, my hair under a cap, no jewelry or accessories, jeans, and the loosest T-shirt I own (which is still not very loose). The very thought of doing this activity makes me nervous but I think it’s an important piece of evaluating the above and interrogating what really is liberating. After 15 years of receiving catcalls, etc. I’m a bit scared as to whether it can be liberating for me to not, on this particular day. Rather than being excited about the prospect of being ignored by men on the street, I’m afraid of feeling invisible, and of not thinking myself beautiful. If I am not beautiful, if I don’t feel truly like a woman without my miniskirts, tank tops, makeup, jewelry, heels, my hair, what it is that makes me a woman anyway? If I truly interpreted that barista in West Philly as “less of a woman” because of her gender presentation, what will I be for this one day? And what about the women that do not fulfill this particular mode of attractiveness that patriarchy has told us is feminine (due to race, class/access, sexual orientation, gender performance, comfort, body size, among others)?

    On Wednesday, I will still be strong, powerful, fierce, thoughtful, and loud, all important parts of my womanness. But I will not be beautiful in the way I like to be. I will not “male gaze sexy.” The best I can hope for is to find another, perhaps more genuine place my beauty comes from.

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