The Female Phenomenon

I love to write.  When I was a littlegirl, I used to write my own "books."  My mom still has one that I wrote (and illustrated!) about a leprechaun who had a pot of gold.  As I got older, I kept writing, and thankfully, my skills improved and the "stories" became more meaningful.  My first memory was being abused at age 3, so every memory afterwards was tainted with this confusion and pain, and writing (among other things and creative pursuits) became my "therapy."  I wrote this piece almost 15 years ago when I was taking an intensive, full-impact self-defense class.  I remember how empowered I felt then, not just through taking the class (which btw is probably one of the most empowering things I've ever done, and I plan on opening my own chapter here in Vegas as part of CTA...more on that later), but also in naming the internal struggle I was going through and that most women I know go through.  I shared it with the class, and I was honored to have them publish it in their training book they gave to students (I've always toyed around with the idea of submitting a book of my poetry to a publisher).  I find this piece is no less powerful today in it's message.


The Female Phenomenon

There are some days
I don’t believe the things he says
Has happened to him
Because I don’t want to believe
Something that horrible
Has happened to someone I love.
But then I remember
That things that horrible
Have happened to me
And I can believe them
Because some days
I don’t love myself.

I thought for a long time
After that epiphany
Sitting in self-loathing
And feeling sad.
Maybe that’s why I cried in the circle
Looking at all the strong women around me
And knowing that
They defeat themselves too
On occasion.
That’s the culture we live in
Teaching us that women don’t have power sometimes.
All the time.
I don’t really know some days.
Some days I hate myself
Feel dirty
And that’s sad.
Ridiculous I even need to point that out
But sadly enough not everyone recognizes that
And so I say it again
That is sad
Sad that some days I hate myself
I don’t know why I hate myself
Just sometimes I feel like I should.
I look at myself
And think, “I’m not perfect”
And I think I should hate that about myself
Rather than embrace it.
On some days I think of myself
As a victim
Rather than a survivor.
And when I do
I blame myself
Because that’s what victims do
And that’s what people do to victims.
We blame the victim
Tell her we would have done something different
Because we are scared ourselves
Of the what ifs.
What if it had been us.
Question her actions
Why did you wear that?
Why did you drink so much?
Why did you go into the bedroom with him?
Why didn’t you scream more?

Why did you stay with him for three and a half years?

It’s all too familiar
It’s all too easy to blame
Because she’ll go along with it
Blame herself
Because at three years old
She thinks she should’ve known to say no.
On some days I try
And I remember I’m a survivor
Someone worth loving.
On those days I remember that
I’ve resigned myself to stop saying "I’m sorry"
I’ve resigned myself to remembering
That if he hurts me
I have every right to hurt him back
And not feel bad about it.
I don’t want to blame myself anymore
Or be blamed because
Of whatever reason they come up with.
I’m a woman
And I can’t change that
Even if I wanted to.
The woman is inside of me
Permeating my words and actions
I’ve been socialized as a woman
Taught I’m inferior
And less than I am.
I’ve been taught not to fight back
And most importantly
To apologize if I do.
I remember being seven years old
Arguing with my best friend
Because she hit me or teased me
And my mom told me to go apologize
Even though it wasn’t my fault.
That’s the mentality I grew up with
The frame of mind
That I should always apologize
Always feel sorry
Even if I did nothing wrong.

Until now.

He asked me if I remembered the moves
And when I said yes
He locked his arm around my throat
And on instinct
I dropped and hit him where he was most vulnerable.
And I didn’t feel bad.
In fact, I just got more angry
When, out of his own instincts,
He recoiled, twisted, and threw me down on the couch.
I backed away from him
Mustered up as much calm as I could
And said in a shaky voice
“Don’t ever throw me again.”
I didn’t apologize
Although he did
Because he thought he was just playing
Thought he would help me remember my techniques.
But he didn’t know
I wasn’t playing
That I don’t do this for fun.
I do it because I’m being realistic.
I sat in that circle that day
Because it dawned on me once again
That this violence we prepare against
Is real
And happens every day.
Every day
Women are beaten.
And then the attacker moves on from her mind
To her body.
This violence on women
Isn’t confined to her body.
The war is greater against her mind.
And that is sad.
I defeat myself
More times than he ever could
And that is sad.

I wish I didn’t have sad days anymore
But I know that the reminder
Keeps me going
Keeps me fighting
So I know in some way
It’s useful.
On those days
I try to clear my mind
And remember my inspiration
The picture burned in my mind
Eighteen women circled
Pulses racing through each other
In a whirlpool.
I glance down
Only for a moment
Because I want my head held high
But the vision of our feet,
Right foot back
Ready to shout no to violence
And yes to power,
That’s the vision I use.

I started this about him
But the sadness permeates
Until I realize it’s all a circle
Just like the eighteen women I use for inspiration
Because one woman might love herself that day
And one woman might not.
But as my own pulse races from arm to arm
Body to body
I feel every one
Every emotion
Until it pulses back to me.
And maybe in that moment
On that day
I’ll feel good.