Liberating Words: “Their Medicine, My Drug”

The poems in our ongoing “Liberating Words” series were written in an interdisciplinary course for high school juniors at The Winsor School, an all-girls school in Boston, Mass. 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 1960’s and 70’s. 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.

Dee West / Creative Commons

Their Medicine, My Drug
by Elaine Wang

I was born with society shoved in my mouth.
I learned to swallow and digest it
like medicine.
Like medicine that would cure me
so I could view the world correctly
I mean, what else can we do?

I grew up and society
my medicine
taught me the words
fat and skinny
I did not know what they really meant but
the medicine taught me that
fat was bad
skinny was good
I did not know what they really meant but
the medicine taught me that
skinny was bad
fat was good

I was fourteen years old when
I found myself
staring in front of the mirror
written a l l   o v e r   m y   b o d y
I wore it like a second skin


tell me if I’m wrong but
if fat is bad and skinny is good
but fat is good and skinny is bad
then fat is bad and skinny is bad too

oh I see
I get it now
Fat is bad HERE but good THERE
Skinny is bad HERE but good THERE

I was fifteen years old when
I realized that this medicine was slowly killing me
I dreamt of spitting it out
but I didn’t know how
so over and over
like a broken record
I swallowed it
it seeped through my veins
like liquid poison

this medicine is a drug
this medicine is the drug that chants in my head
over and over
like a broken record
skinny HERE GOOD skinny THERE BAD
36 24 36, 36 24 36
you call that perfection
and like a parrot
I call it perfection
but what more really is it
than a lucky coincidence
a golden ticket in the genetic lottery?

I am addicted
to the drug
I want to stop
But when you’ve lived your whole life under the influence
You can’t.

I don’t know how old I’ll be
when I find myself.

Elaine Wang, age 16, is an avid meme collector. She also enjoys eating eggs with every meal possible. 



Lia Kornmehl is a junior at the Winsor School who is passionate about jazz music, milk chocolate, and equal opportunities for women in the workplace.