speaking out

Power to the Pussy by Nancy Coleman

Do I like this prompt?

Not at all.

Couldn’t we call it something else, say all my ancestor women - all of them dressed for church in white gloves and plain cotton underwear- do you have to be so coarse?

I am this ready to blame the woman who brings the message.

And almost equally ready to let the man slide, back off the bus at the next stop, his hands and his cock humming with delicious prowess, with new life. It doesn’t matter that this life he feels is stolen. It doesn’t matter that by the end of his not-enough bullshit day he will need to steal it again. Another pussy. Another ass. Another sweet current of electric ladyland conquest, unconsequential. I could almost let him off the hook. This is what I would prefer to do really. There is nothing to be gained from blowing that particular whistle.

Except for the young woman, a girl really, who stands frozen in shame and defeat. She has not moved from that crowded streetcar in 46 years.

While I would like to think I am so much older and wiser now, so much more competent and confident, what gives me momentary comfort is not that I know I would turn around and call him on his abuse should that happen now. No. Now I comfort myself secretly with the promise that I’m old enough that no one will be interested. I do this when I’m afraid on a city street at night, when I’m walking alone on the town common land and see a man walking toward me, when I’m in a tent in a family campground, alone. There were years when I believed I could outrun him; as I circled the Central Park running loop and he stood in the weak shade of a tree closest to the trail showing me his pale skinny dick, I could almost laugh. I don’t have that beautiful muscled arrogance now, but I have age. He’s not looking at me, I say to myself.  

I should have turned around, at least, I should have shouted something.

It’s branding, you see.

This is why it feels the way it does, hot, wrong, shameful.

Because he knows he can grab and rub and knead your flesh when he decides it’s time. He knows you are held down by stronger arms than his – the rules, propriety, politeness, empathy. He wants to claim this piece of you, and he can. You will not move, and you will not say anything. He will walk away feeling a hot mixture of strong, and you will carry his mark forever.

After the reveals of the presidential candidate’s blatant sexism and predation, one of my dearest friends confessed in an almost-whisper to me, “I know men who talk like this…”. “I don’t say anything,” he said, “because, well…” We were walking by our beautiful autumn river, I nodded and said, “yeah, I know..”

Of course I know. We all know this. We all nod and we don’t say anything because, “you know…”

We are all branded. This is how the horrors are passed on to child after child, woman, girl, boy, man, every generation, every tribe. Like this:

Honey, he’s just kidding.

Did he want something from you that you couldn’t give him?

 I’m sure it wasn’t what you thought.

You have to understand, he (has a hard life, is upset about work, is worried about you, is drunk, loves you)

But really, don’t say pussy, it’s not nice.


So for today, one small piece of reclamation from centuries of shame. Imagine this: I am that glorious and frightened young woman on the streetcar, and I am the woman who stands up for her and says, “get your hands off her. Now. There is nothing of her that belongs to you.” I blow that whistle, and every other woman and several of the men pick up their whistles and blow them too, and it sounds like crazy music we are making, the sound of pussy, free and fertile and proud, as it should be.