About a month ago, I had a conversation with my housemate about how women are constantly told that the most important thing they can be is beautiful. We spoke about racial stereotypes of women in pornography and media in general, the pressure on women to cultivate their beauty above all else, and how ‘compliments’ are often just a sugar-coated power trip. Both of us have had countless experiences of having people comment on our appearances before anything else, and while I had never seen this as a terrible thing (except catcalling, that is always horrific), she made me look at it differently. She opened my eyes to the fact that when a comment on someone’s beauty is the first thing you say to them, you reduce all that they are to something that is superficial, missing out all of the more important complexities of them as a person. I thought about this for weeks, and the conversation we had was the inspiration for a poem which I entitled Real Women Have Curves.
I performed this poem for the first time the other night at Homos and Houmous, a queer/Jewish open mic night in London. My mother posted a recording of my performance on Facebook, and I am completely overwhelmed by the response I’ve had to it. As I write this, it’s had over 4,000 views, has been shared by people who don’t even know me, and has been linked on a number of feminist Facebook groups. When I wrote it, I set out to change people’s minds in the same way that the conversation with my housemate changed mine. As I say at the beginning of this video, feminism is about discourse and debate, not arguing about who’s right or wrong, and that’s what I wanted this poem to achieve. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Full poem below!
Real Women Have Curves
I come from an army of curvy women.
Of long haired ladies
With blue eyes and thick thighs
And asses that never quit.
With these childbearing hips
(That, according to my mother, didn’t make it any easier)
We could sway and sashay
Away from any problem.
I come from queens who stomped around the kingdom
With our too-big feet
Tell our skinnier friends to put meat on their bones,
And leave the laxatives at home
Kick their bony asses to the curb
Because real women have curves.
Real women have curves,
And big girls don’t cry,
And good girls will be virgins on their wedding night.
Black girls are sassy and can twerk on command,
The Asian girl gets on her knees for a man
And the band girl is kinky as fuck
You’re always in luck with a Latin girl.
Or the one who’s got issues with Dad
Cause she never gets mad if you’re late or forget-
She’s used to it.
The feminists are gay,
And so is that one that you “didn’t fancy anyway”,
The bisexual’s just out for attention
Did I mention
The slut who didn’t say no
Or the whore who dumped you three years ago
Or the bitch who said you were full of it
And called you up on your bullshit –
Let’s admit that these things are true.
They’ll put you in a box, too.
If you let them.
So, tell me.
Tell me that real women have curves,
So the numbers on a scale won’t get on my nerves,
And I’ll let you build me up
And watch you crush the skinny girls to dust.
But, that’s okay.
They were barely there anyway.
Watch my stiff upper lip start to quake
As I ache,
And I bawl
At the end credits of Bridge to Terabithia because I don’t care how big you are, if you don’t cry at that you’re made of fucking stone.
Twenty-one, still a virgin, that’s a bit of a joke,
But you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t
It’s the slut-virgin binary,
With nothing between,
And to be seen as either one is tainted.
Tell me I’m a real woman,
As if there is such a thing.
As if there’s a code
Made of ones and ohs
Lit up in green
And that numbers on a screen mean anything.
Tell me I’m too ‘white’ to dance,
That I can’t shake my ass
Unless you tell me to.
Tell me that my brand of feminism makes me gay,
And then get out of my way
So I can talk to that girl at the bar.
But, because I told you no,
It’s just for attention
It’s just pretension
Just repressed sexual tension.
And nothing is real unless you say so.
I come from an army of curvy women,
And I am a goddamn queen.
But that’s not real, that’s fiction,
Between the real and the invisible
Divisible by the walls between our boxes.
If real women have curves,
Do I end at the wrists?
Or the squareness of my shoulders?
Do I become a real woman when I cast a shadow?
Is the only power
In my willingness to tower over others?
Pulling up the covers
To hide my edges
To shield the sharpness of my bones
Because no one wants to see the chinks
In the armour of a strong woman.
Real women have curves,
And sharp bones wrapped in muscle and flesh.
What makes us women isn’t strength
It’s the army at our backs.
It’s the shield and the sword
And the chord of our fight song,
Our battle cry
Of asking why we aren’t allowed to be our own.
What makes us women isn’t sisterhood, it’s lifeblood,
It’s the tracks we have made in the sand
And the brand of that word: