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  • “Occasionally it is interesting to think about the outburst if you would just cry out
    To know what you sound like is worth noting –“
    Claudia Rankine
    ______________________________

    I once screamed off a dorm balcony, shrieked really, to see what it would feel like. Nothing in the minutes prior warranted the outburst, it came from somewhere festering deep inside.

    I think women, white women in particular, are taught from a young age that to be meek is a virtue. Girls, we are told, are made from sugar and spice and everything nice.

    Be what others want you to be, take care of them because your job as a woman is to nurture.

    We are not only ourselves but are gardeners, you step into my house and I offer you a drink.

    My grandmother lived in a retirement home before she died. She had a tiny kitchenette and yet every time we came over she would say, “let me make you something, let me make you a pot roast.” “It’s 9pm, we would say. “We already ate,” we would say. “What do YOU need?” her daughters would ask. A new generation had stepped in as caregiver.

    And I say white women in particular because that is my experience and because I believe that we have a shared, unique set of expectations and biases and oppressions and privileges.

    Our privilege is the privilege of being unsuspected and weak. I could shoplift and because I look sweet, no one would suspect me. I can instigate a fight and still boys are taught “not to hit girls.” I will never be drafted. The way I speak is considered normal and harmless. People will offer me help if I appear to physically struggle. On a date, I am not expected to pay unless I offer. If I commit a crime, I will be given a much lighter sentence than a man or a person of color. If I get invited out with my partners family, they don’t care if I am successful or if I can support a family. It matters only that I am nice.

    They tell us that our ability to get fucked is the source of our weakness and our strength. My power in society is derived from how I look – sexy or beautiful. They are the same thing, by the way – the naughty and nice sides of the same coin. We are either Beyonce: “if you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it” or Taylor Swift: “Abigail gave everything she had to a boy who changed his mind.”

    Was my virginity everything that I had at fifteen? Was there nothing else of value to me? Is my ability to hook a man, to receive a ring my only value now?

    White women are taught to be afraid: “Men only want one thing.” “Don’t walk alone at night.” We are told over and over that we are the most vulnerable and we believe.

    Feminism has become a bad word; it is seen as weak to point out your weakness. But I want a name to put to the feeling that nests somewhere between my heart and my sternum that longs to scream off a balcony “I AM MORE THAN YOU THINK I CAN BE!”

    One more anecdote and I’ll close out. I asked my students at the beginning of the month what their New Years Resolutions were. They went around in a circle and said, “better grades,” “get better at soccer,” “be a better friend.” We asked one girl to repeat herself, we thought she quietly said “be more nice.”

    “No," she said, "I want to be less nice.”

    __________________

    I wrote and performed this piece January 2015.
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