What do you see when you see me?
What do you notice first?
Is it my hair, my eyes, my breasts, my thighs, the way my body moves in a skirt? My body.
A man my grandfather’s age approached me when I was only 13.
I didn’t get it.
I didn’t understand, but it made me feel unclean like all of who I am was reduced to one thing, does he want me?
The way my teacher made it a point to always touch my shoulder every class.
A man my father’s age once told me that I looked “good enough to eat.”
I was only 14.
I felt so violated I could scream
but this was all becoming so normal
this was almost routine
And I was gaslighted by society to believe that it wasn’t them
it was me
I was a child
My body hadn’t even begun to bleed.
I am not your prey.
I am not here for the taking.
I do not exist for your sake.
My childhood never quite felt safe yet you ask me questions like,
“Did you like the attention?
Well, what were you wearing?”
Like somehow I’m the one to blame. I had on braces and a backpack.
Even today not a whole lot has changed.
I still swallow words and restrain rage.
Different zoo in the same cage.
Different chapter but still the same page
But I am not a little girl anymore and I will not abide this disrespect.
I will change the things I can no longer accept because, see, I really think that some of these men forget….
that women made you.
You came from my womb and when you dehumanize me, you dehumanize yourself because this is where your self grew.
I am the eternal feminine,
the great mother,
the goddess moon.
This temple is sacred and you will give reverence where reverence is due.
And how could my body be just a commodity when it carries
I am but a vessel
On God’s tree—
this is just a limb so remember when you desecrate me, you desecrate him.
My body is sacred ground and you will treat it as such.
You will ask before you touch
and I really don’t feel like that’s asking too much
So tell me what exactly is it that you see when you see me
because I have been sexualized since before I could pronounce that three-syllable word.
And I am your daughter.
I am your precious little girl.
I am your mother, the one who held you when you were ill.
I am your sister who kept who your secrets safe.
I am your friend.
I am your ally.
I am a human.
I am a person.
I am your equal.
All I really want is to walk the streets
wearing headphones in peace
To breathe deep and then to exhale
and feel that release in
Author: Sydney Sleadd
Editor: Catherine Monkman