Sunday, April 15, 2018

To Be A Woman in American Society by Josephine Napiore

April is Poetry Month, so every Sunday this month we will be featuring a poem about crime from Gerald So's 5-2 blog. This week's poem is called "To Be a Woman in American Society" and it was written by Josephine Napiore.


She says words that fall from lips bitter
with experience. "Women," she says, "see violence
enacted on other women." "Women,"
she says, "are always aware of a constant threat."

My ears ring with memories of "sweetheart"
from a man on the bus. I just looked away.
If I had responded at all, would he have followed me
off at my stop? Of "smile" from the man
on the sidewalk who blocked my path until I did.
If I had got around him, would he have followed me,
yelling "smile"? I imagine him screaming, "Smile,
you bitch, and make ME happy!"

We are controlled—we can't go out at night
alone. We cannot go THERE at all—in that skirt.
When we are sent home from school to change clothes
because our yoga pants distract the boys from their
education, we are being told ours
doesn't matter.

We are fat-shamed, slut-shamed, frigid-shamed.
Accused of "Friend zoning," which blames us
for not wanting the one who wants us. For having
our own feelings, desires, preferences. We are bullied
—by other women—online, to our faces, behind our backs.
We are told that we asked for it when we dress sexy.
We are raped and/or murdered when we say, "No."

We have to fight for the rights to control our own bodies
—over and over. Even once we have them.
We are made to feel stupid, worthless, unfeminine,
"bossy" when we stand up for ourselves. We are "crazy"
when men don't want to deal with our anger, even
when they are the ones who treated us badly
and made us angry. We should just take it
and shut up.

I fear for my daughter in this world—her lips
are still sweet. They still smile on their own.
To be a woman is limiting—in movement,
in careers, in income, in even our own facial
expressions. To be a woman is frightening,
dangerous. There are too many words
to be used against us.

Here is the poem read by the author.

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