A Woman Can Speak

Unlearning To Not Speak
—Marge Piercy

Blizzards of paper
in slow motion
sift through her
In nightmares she suddenly recalls
a class she signed up for
but forgot to attend.
Now it is to late.
Now it is time for finals:
losers will be shot.
Phrases of men who lectured her
drift and rustle in piles:
Why don’t you speak up?
Why are you shouting?
You have the wrong answer,
wrong line, wrong face.
They tell her she is womb-man,
babymachine, mirror image, toy,
earth mother and penis-poor,
a dish of synthetic strawberry ice cream
rapidly melting.
She grunts to a halt.
She must learn again to speak
starting with I
Starting with We
starting as the infant does
with her own true hunger
and pleasure
and rage.

My choice of photo and poem might seem to be confusing. While we women here in America are struggling today to retain the rights we already have, many women around the world are trying to emerge from lives of servitude, illiteracy and fear. They are our sisters and we must recognize all of the strength and courage it takes to make baby steps to speak.

They face acid in their faces, beatings, children taken away, being isolated in their homes and being an object a man owns. We must recognize how difficult their attempts are for them to make. We must look at them, different, yet our sisters and applaud them for each step and gesture which enables them to begin speaking.

There are many women here in America who were taught not to speak. They didn’t know what they were taking about, they needed to shut up and take care of the children, they needed to “stifle” like Edith Bunker. Thanks to books such as the Feminine Mystic by Betty Friedan, Ms magazine and the work of Gloria Steinem, we can speak…we can speak out and up. What we have to say as women is as valuable as anything a man has to say.

Here is to total equality for all the people, male and female, all colors, and all religions and forms of spirituality.