Adolescence, Feminist


Maybe she could like being a woman, she stands at the mirror and thinks:

These new wide hips might be good, maybe

sexy in tight jeans or her school uniform.

As she puts her hands on them, she ponders how they feel:

substantial, alive


strong, even.

She has a body made for earthly things:

for ice cream and fruit in the summer,

spontaneous rough-housing,

being held tight,

the comfort of a blanket on bare skin,

for dirtying, bleeding, burning

and healing, in time.

Her body has a quiet power distinctly human

a power pulled up from the earth and perfected in her posture; the breath of life.

But she is not a woman.

she is still a girl, perhaps not responsible enough yet

for this heirloom,

or mature enough to understand it:

the vibrator, hidden under an old T-shirt in her sock drawer,

next to the diary that divulges its use.

These earthly things are small and unimportant, she tells herself, rolling her eyes at

the lip gloss girl’s twitterings on boys and Katy Perry,

she sees her life in other images:

thick novels prominently displayed on her bedside table (this week, “The Gulag Archipeligo”),

accolades, honors, groundbreaking something-or-other,

high heels clicking in marble hallways,

the shuffling of important papers in board rooms,

a halo of highlighted hair.

Or failure, maybe

frames without diplomas

empty rooms, mediocrity

She looks back at the mirror, pulls her stomach in, and can see

the outline of her rib cage, her hip bones

not prominent, but there.

They seem to be pointing toward

somewhere more ethereal, free from these earthly things

a power more god-like than human, they tease her with freedom.

she sighs,

steps away from her spot at the mirror,

and into a self

that is still, somehow, a stranger.


The word, they’ve heard

describes some whiny bitch

with her hands on her hips, stamping her feet like a two year old,

conjuring up injustice out of the air.


when I mention “feminism” at the dinner table one night, casually,

my brother asks me if I’m a lesbian, and

my dad says I’m too pretty for that,

jokingly, of course, always jokingly.

I guess I do not need to wrap myself up in this word,

to use it as protection.

I guess men didn’t catcall me

on the way to school when I was twelve, saying

Hey Sexy, I’d tap dat ass girl, look at dem double D’s.

I guess I wasn’t taught to hate my body

because girls can’t walk alone at night , of course, girls need protection, not adventure.

cover yourself up, keep your head down, don’t trust strangers

don’t speak too loudly, don’t take up too much space, boys are only after one thing.

I guess I wasn’t taught to keep silent in middle school

when the boys jumped up and down in their seats in math class,

cracking “make me a sandwich” jokes, calling out answers,

as I sat, silent, trying to calculate the calories in my lunch, but

girls aren’t good at math anyway.

I don’t say any of this.

I don’t want to be a two year old, stamping my foot,

conjuring injustice out of the air.

Margaret Heftler, Age 16, Grade 11, The Dalton School, Gold Key

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