“File me under W…

…because I wonce was a woman.” -from “The Secretary Chant” by Marge Piercy

“To say that gender is performative is to say that nobody really is a gender from the start. I know it’s controversial, but that’s my claim.” -Judith Butler

Watch this video.  Pretty please.  Judith Butler is brilliant and eloquent, and her claims about the creation and perpetuation of gender through performativity are what inform the ideas in the following poem, a poem that I wrote because I don’t like the idea of being a “woman.” I don’t like the baggage that comes with it, and it has never been a word I feel comfortable using to describe myself, despite the fact that I have always accepted being female. Butler’s ideas help to explain that although I might be female-bodied, no part of me is inherently feminine – womanhood was never inevitably tied up in my two X chromosomes with which I was born.

On the days I wear skirts

They are taking me and
making me a mannequin,
setting my limbs to allure,
my stiff arms slipped through
lacy silken sleeves.
They are teaching me to
smile and hold the pose,
blush, brighten and whiten
until I shimmer and blind
the stranger out of myself,
until I lose the words
I would use to name
my own budding body,
until my silence is perfumed
and packaged – the Latest Model –
and my batteries are included
for convenience.

I am earning wolf whistles and sideways smiles.
I am kissed and prodded and praised.
I am gathering dust.
I am giving birth.


One Response

  1. Dear Hannah
    I feel something that is quite comparable to your experience, but still…
    I just don’t want to be filed under any letter and I want to keep the choice. Life is sometime complicated. I wonder why does it have to be so.
    Your poem has the roughness of this “dictature”, straight to the point!

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