biographies of violence

Missed a day yesterday and feel all sorts of discombobulated because of it.

March 29, 2017.

One of the conversations I was having yesterday (instead of writing) was about what we remember of our feminist beginnings. Before we named it feminism, what are the ways in which the world responded to us or contained us or named us in ways that required our feminist achings and strivings? Maybe a lot of people have a “click moment”–that term introduced in 1971 through Ms Magazine for the moment when your eyes open and you see the sexism and misogyny that you swim in. And while the most “conscious” moment for many of us is in a moment of college education, I’d argue that the majority of cisgender women probably experience an accumulation of moments starting when we’re very young. Sara Ahmed talks about becoming feminist as “how we redescribe the world we are in”. Of course, redescription is only necessary if you recognize the failures and gaps of the description you’ve been given or that you’ve been giving.

What do you remember of your earliest redescriptions?

Redescribing the World

I traveled through Narnia,
dwelt in little houses in little woods,
and held hands with Betsy and Tacy.

Girls abounded. But even Jo, fierce
Jo, dear, creative, willful Jo
“grew up.” In growing up, girls moved
indoors, domesticated.

No surprise then that I searched out
biographies of grown women– Harriet
Tubman, Florence Nightingale, Marie Curie:

their stories roamed outside the home.


Another Sara Ahmed quote: “We all have different biographies of violence, entangled as they are with so many aspects of ourselves: things that happen because of how we are seen; and how we are not seen. You find a way of giving an account of what happens, of living with what happens.”

Biography of Violence

That man at the edge of the playground
in his car with his penis showing. He waved at me;
I ran away.

That creepy high school teacher
who insinuated what he wanted and needed from me.
I pretended I didn’t understand.
I smiled.
I made sure I brought friends along anytime I had to see him.

The long walk to school from the bus stop
always involved catcalls. Most were funny;
some hitched my breath and quickened my step.
Did you learn, too, how to carry keys between your fingers?

We were friends. When I woke up in the middle
of the night, groggy, confused,
he was there, and I couldn’t gather my voice to say no.
Afterwards I blamed myself.

These scars don’t shine on my skin, but they have altered
my rhythm and rhyme
in this world. Keys
between fin
gers eyes dart
head down
smile pretty
let me
be

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