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.
i know you’re mad but keep it together and Don’t raise your voice
don’t clench your fists
remember they can use body language against you too.
Don’t share your opinion unless it is complementary to what they are already saying.
Don’t offer a new perspective
learn from your mistakes. they will take your new perspective as an aggressive attack against them
deep breath. nod and smile.
deep breath. nod. and smile.
just smile and remember.
remember you’re lucky to be here
remember all the hard work you put in
remember how long it took for you to prove to them that you are just like them,
prove to them that you may be black, but you’re Not obnoxious
you only take up a little bit of space
your views aren’t going to be a problem at all. they Will Not be a center for controversy
you won’t be in their way.
even get your hair braided
extensions down your back. the ones that look the closest to real.
show them again and again that you can look like them too
do not. i repeat do not ask for help.
and if you really have to.
respond graciously and gratefully when they talk down to you in the most condescending manner
Excuse their ignorance just this once
just this twice
just this fourth time
just this sixth time
Just about every time because you are Outnumbered
keep it together
this is just a reality
deal with it
you are lucky to even be here.