Liberating Words: “Like a Girl”

The poems contained in this series, “Liberating Words,” came out of an interdisciplinary course for high school juniors at The Winsor School, an all-girls school in Boston. The course, “The Personal Is Political:  An Interdisciplinary Look at Feminism,” is co-taught by Libby Parsley, a history teacher, and Susanna Ryan, an English teacher. The second unit of the course focuses on the history and literature of second-wave feminism: the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and ’70s. Students read a compilation of poems by women writers from that period and then wrote their own poems; the assignment asked them to represent an issue or problem they see as central to 21st-century women’s experience through the very personal genre of poetry.

Like a Girl

By Erin Lyons

“You run like a girl!”
To you,
This is an insult,
My femininity a weakness.

You fail to realize
That when girls run,
They have to carry
A lot more baggage than you ever will.

Have you ever,
Once a month,
Had to go about daily life
While your insides bleed out,
Simply because you have the body of a girl?

Have you ever
Felt like your career won’t matter,
Since your main purpose
Is supposedly to be a wife and a mother,
Simply because you’ll grow up as a girl?

Have you ever
Felt violated by someone’s gaze,
Someone who sees your clothes
As permission, or even an invitation,
Simply because you’re dressed like a girl?

Have you ever
Had to navigate all these obstacles
All while still being told to “smile more?”

Girls aren’t just running,
They’re jumping over hurdles every day,
Though you still consider
Our efforts to be inadequate.

“You run like a girl!”
To me,
This is a compliment,
My femininity a force to be reckoned with.

Erin Lyons, 16, attends the Winsor School in Boston and enjoys reading, baking and rowing.

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Photo courtesy of Flickr user Sangudo licensed under Creative Commons 2.0