Tag Archives: feminism

Trouble and The Good Girl

By Lena Kotler-Wallace

I was born a Good Girl. In sweet, pinafored dresses, hair tied neatly with a ribbon, hanging down straight and shining to the small of my back – because I brushed it every night 100 times like someone from somewhere once said to. I was precocious, but not in that obnoxious way, so as not to challenge the adults around me. Like a good Southern child my “pleases and thank yous” were always followed by a “ma’am” or “sir” strung out with a charming drawl that hinted at more of the kind of genteel South, sweet teas sipped on porches, than it did of the banjo-playing, cousin-screwing hillbilly variety.

I was a Good Girl, and good girls got praise. They got love. They got fathers who paraded them proudly in front of friends to recite their multiplication tables or mothers who hugged them tightly as they stood tall, a perfect doll-like trophy. Good girls got parents who told stories hinting not so subtly that their daughter was not just pretty but SMART.

Good girls did not get the terrifying father who slammed doors while their hand was still in the frame, or who left them sprawled out on the floor, his handprint welling upon their cheek when they corrected his math.

Good girls did not get that glaring look from their mothers. The ones that let them know that with a single childlike misstep such as forgetting to clean their room or making a B on that quiz, they could be too much for the Good Girl persona to bear.

That look and those words inevitably let me know I had suddenly slipped from being The Good Girl to (capital T) Trouble.

I learned very early on that I did not want to be Trouble.

As a child growing up in one of those houses that the neighborhood kids were told they couldn’t play at as their parents pretended they couldn’t hear the horror show going on behind closed curtains, I learned bad things happened because you deserved them, and, if only I had been a Good Girl, then daddy wouldn’t hit, and mommy wouldn’t say those mean things that honestly left wounds much deeper than any punch my dad could throw.

I avoided trouble like it was my sacred mission. The Holy Grail of Good, however, proved to be a difficult thing to achieve. Turns out living in a fear-filled, abusive household tends to give a person some mental health issues, and things like depression and bipolar disorder are not something that Good Girls contract.

I soon learned that Good Girls also only come in sizes like thin or straight. They are only that 1990s kind of liberal that’s really just a Republican in a blue power suit. They are not radicalized. They are not queer. They don’t fucking curse. They are not any of those things that can’t politely be put on the family Christmas card.

Good girls are silent trophies you put up on a shelf. They aren’t me.

Now, staring down the barrel of 35, those people who taught me to fear trouble are all dead and buried. The monsters in the dark are gone, and I can finally face the truth that chasing the phantom of the Good Girl won’t protect me. That actually it never did.

And maybe that’s okay.

Being silent. Being good. Well, it’s no longer an option.

Because life can’t be lived in perfection. The very act of living and existing in our world means that at one point or another you will be too much for someone, not enough for someone else.

You will be too smart.

You will not be in the right body.

You will be tired, and you will say the wrong thing.

You won’t be tired at all, and you will still say the wrong thing.

No matter what you do. No matter how carefully you try to pass in our fucked-up world, you will somehow not fit in that straight cis/het mold of the Good. The day will come when it is your turn to be trouble, and that is not something we should be scared of.

We can’t.

I can’t.

Not just because I deserve that kind of unconditional existence. I do. But so do those three kids who now call me Mom, who are looking to me for love.

And I’m going to love the ever-living shit out of them. I will love them when they bring home A’s, and I will love them when they forget to do their homework entirely. I will love them when their rooms look like a hazmat team is needed, and I will love them through all of the messiness of life. They will know that they are safe and celebrated, and, no matter how much trouble they may be, they will know this is not a home that worships at the altar of The Good Girl.

This is a house that makes trouble.

Remnants of a Smoldering Fire

By Cat Taylor

Twirling in my grandmother’s kitchen
To the sound of bluegrass
And the smell of something vaguely
Apple Cinnamon
I declare myself
A princess
She whirled around
Hand on hip
Looked at me
And said sharply that NO,
In this family, we are witches
And I called myself a Good Witch
And I wonder
If I had been a bit older
And she a bit more tired
If she would have told me how
Redundant that is

My family is full of witches
And it has been so watered down
So distilled that
Once it reached me
The only thing left
Was the memory
Of the fire

Witches were not burned for being witches
They were burned for being women
And I think
There might be a metaphor
Waiting to be picked from their ashes
About women and fire
Or powerful women, and men’s fear of them

My grandmother told me
When I brought her the 2nd bumblebee
That day
To keep this fire
And she taught me
That this fire in the belly
In the brain
Can be the gentlest sort of thing

And yesterday
When I looked in the mirror
I saw her eyes
And what a joy it is
To see that this witch’s fire
No longer burns you
Or puts you on trial
But holds you
Keeps you safe

And a week ago a wasp got caught in my bedroom
And as I held her
Gingerly
In a cup with a half-written poem below her
I marveled
At the way her fire kept her alive
And fighting
And how my fire kept me alive
And fighting

But this is not just a self-reflection
This is a call to arms
That when you feel that fire
In your belly
In your brain
That restlessness
And quiet displeasure with the world
Remember
Your ancestors were witches
Or at least
Strong women
And I think that is mostly the same thing
There is so much light
To be spread with your fire
But also, so much
That needs to be burnt down
Call it a rampage
Or a reclamation
Or a controlled burn but
Use it, passionately
To spite the ones
Who used it against your mothers so long ago
But please
Don’t forget
That your fire
Is the most witchy, gentle thing
And you can use it
However you damn well please

crazy bitches

By Maddie Fay

“you gotta watch out
for those crazy bitches,
man,”
says the drunk man at the bar.
he says this to me
conspiratorially,
like i, a bulldyke,
am far enough removed
from his idea of “woman”
that he can talk to me this way
and i will understand.
i have sex with women,
after all,
so how could i possibly
view them as people?
surely, i know
what he’s talking about.
and i do know
exactly what he’s talking about.

“crazy bitch,”
noun.
defined as,
1) any woman whose emotions
are inconvenient to you;
2) any woman who accuses you
or any of your friends
of predatory behavior.

a crazy bitch will get angry
just because you
forgot her birthday
or fucked her friend.
a crazy bitch will call you
an asshole
or a player.

“crazy bitches,”
he tells me,
“are always ruining things
for nice guys.”

and i know a lot of nice guys,
the kinds i go camping with,
the kind who’ll go to lunch
with your rapist,
but never one-on-one,
they just have a lot of
mutual friends,
and nice guys don’t like
to make a scene.

a crazy bitch
won’t make things comfortable
for nice guys,
a crazy bitch
will call it rape
just because she was asleep
and you didn’t ask permission.

“crazy bitches,”
he says,
“will accuse you of anything.”

and i have never been
a perfect lover,
often not even a good one.
i have forgotten a lot of birthdays
and fucked a lot of friends.
i have been called an asshole
and a player.
i have had sex with a lot of women,
but i have never been called
a rapist.
because i don’t believe in
grey areas,
because i make sure that
everyone i touch
wants to be touched by me
every time.
i have been accused
of a lot of things,
but never once of rape.
you say crazy bitches
are always accusing “nice guys”
of rape,
and i think you are saying
“nice guys”
when you mean to say “rapists.”

a crazy bitch will hold
a knife to your throat
just because
you put a gun in her mouth
and told her you’d shoot
if she screamed,
a crazy bitch will have the audacity
to rip her survival from your hands.
she is not full of soft things
the way you expected a woman
to be,
you can’t tell crazy bitches
what to do.

you are afraid of her words,
but she is afraid of your hands,
and your wanting,
the way that wanting,
for you,
is only a step
on the ladder to taking
instead of the start of a
conversation.

so when he says,
“you’ve got to watch out
for those crazy bitches,”
i say,
“yes.
us crazy bitches
have got to watch out
for each other,
because no one else
is fucking going to.”