Can’t Give it Back: On Womanhood

I didn’t want my womanhood. I wanted to give it back seeing it was muddied and sullied, torn at the corners and bent at the edges. The ink of my suffering is bleeding through the pages. I am smudged and unreadable. My letters do not flutter with fire, instead my embers glow with strange flames of many colors. I am gold at the center – inflamed-white-hot. Shine your blue searchlight on me and I fluoresce with bad knowledge. You do not want this strange glow for yourself, it is both a curse and a gift.

Some days I feel so helpless in my femininity. Embracing everything that is soft and gentle and kind and nurturing feels like walking outside without armor on, naked and shivering in the cold of the glare of those who look at me and judge, who domineer and threaten. The Man tried to declaw my womanhood and leave me gumming my sustenance with broken teeth. It is not that they didn’t beat me, squash me, reduce me, make no mistake they did, but I am rubber, I am a bouncy ball, memory foam around a core of steel, and sooner or sometimes later, I more or less regained the shape I once had.

That shape over years of forging, pounding, whittling and plunging into hot oil, gradually altered. I would bounce back resentful and exhausted, but stronger and stronger and stronger. Every metal has its limits, however, and after one too many plunges into that oil drum, one too many quenchings, the very metal of me started to crack. I was no longer a blade, I was something else. Perhaps you could drill a hole through it and wear it round your neck like a piece of jewelry. Perhaps you could take a portion of it and grind it down to make a small dagger for the boot of a lady who is meant to raid tombs and wander deserts. It can’t be a sword anymore. I fall on my words. I impale myself here. The final act is here, the endgame is on at my own bidding. I am a scribe. I am Sesheta with a quill scratching on papyrus. The cord is stretched once again now the floods have receded and I mark the high tide and the low. The palm is notched anew. I have work to do.

I didn’t want what was pretty and soft and gentle. I scrubbed my face clean and cut my hair short. I pared my fingernails down to the blood and bone and wore heavy black books. Utilitarian. Who needs adornment, when there is use and steel?

Now I am not so sure. There is power in hands cut and made tender from so many poundings. Perhaps I am not steel, but fire and ashes, and like a phoenix I can rise from the flame? I find myself embracing that which I was too scared to express. Perhaps there is power in my work caring for others, even if they turned around and bit me, like a venus fly trip with a false bait. It is a reflex reaction, I suppose. Chomp! No thought for my fingers. No care for my bones. No worry for my feelings, stripped bare and raw.

I now dress for disaster and war, instead to repel or deny my womanhood. The end result is the same, even if the thought process has changed.

It is men who are the weak ones. The ones who can only create with their own tender hands, and not with the power of the womb, mystic and mysterious. My femininity did not make me weak, it made me almost unbreakable through the strength of the most powerful thing of all: love.

I purchased a pair of Chinese slippers, in burgundy brocade and delicate embroidery. A six dollar embracing of everything I tried to throw off in fear.

A few days ago a man attacked me in the street. I have been shaken up for days. The cops don’t care. Heck they don’t even show up. I will not escape men by shaving my head. I will not escape men by wearing ugly oversized clothes, nor by the years that robbed me of the scant pretty I had to begin with. I will not escape their arbitrary violence by manning up and running with the boys. I am what I am and what I am is both vulnerable and powerful. I chose my power. I chose my womanhood. I chose my life as I chose to live it. I chose to embrace the light and the day, not the dark of the night, even if it means being taken back to the hammer and the anvil and the boiling pot of oil and the swordsmith’s whetstone. Whatever form I end up taking will be the right one, and in the meantime, hang me, sheathe me, use me, need me, I am skipping lightly across my days wearing burgundy brocade.

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