To Be a Girl

To Be a Girl

[Words and art by Ella Field  (she/her)]

Content warning: rape, sexual harassment, death.

Sometimes I look back at my younger self

as oestrogen surged

and hips stretched and boobs swelled

and so began the stares, the comments, the hands, the hell 

that is every woman’s reality

in this man’s world. 

I look at her 

young and sweet

mounds of flesh on her chest 

but just a girl underneath.

Too young to make sense 

of her sexuality 

but thrust into the male gaze

at just fourteen. 

I look at her

innocent as can be

struggling to understand what this whole woman thing means

‘a woman’s value is her attractiveness’ 

society screams

take it as a compliment! 

ignore your unease! 

I look at her

unsure to know how to act feel or be

confused by cat calls

proof of womanhood? Predatory?

confused when ‘no’ 

was unheard or harder to say 

than she was told it would be. 

I look at her

and want to tell her all I’ve now felt learnt and seen

to protect her

to snatch her innocence 

before that innocence is stolen

painfully.

But then I look at her 

and look back at me

suddenly I wish that that innocent girl could still be.

Why have I had to learn the things I’ve learnt?

and see the things I’ve seen? 

Why’ve I had to build up walls 

of protection around me? 

And the sad thing is

when I look back at little me

despite her innocence,

all her naivety,

despite all I’ve learnt

I know I’m still no safer than she.

I may be more numb, more expecting 

and with clearer boundaries

but it’s obvious

from the awful events of this week 

that no amount of knowledge

will protect women from violent male creeps

who are in this case, and many others, 

the institutional props we call the police.

Right now every woman I know is hurting.

For Sarah, for her family

for all the victims of gendered violence

reminded that they are all of us

or could be.

The trauma that these events remind us of

is overwhelming, all consuming 

felt collectively.

So men, we ask you to be with us

to raise your voices in solidarity 

we don’t expect you to get it

at least not at first, not completely.

But please, find your anger and compassion

if you can’t find empathy

the patriarchy fucks us all 

mother, sister, father, brother, friend

so your silence makes no sense to me.

Please chat with the guys, with the girls,

reflect on what you’ve learnt and seen

talk about where you might have gone wrong

because a lot of you have gone wrong it seems.

Think about how you uphold the system

and what you want to do differently

The problem is all of ours 

always has been, always will be

and to not engage is a choice and privilege 

which causes casualties.

I take one last look at her

at the girl who was once me

and wish I could hold her, console her,

give her a big squeeze

I wish I could let her know she’ll find her voice

and with that more inner peace

I wish I could tell her that I’m proud of her

of all she was and all she’ll be.

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