As A Woman
By Sue Najm
Discussed: sexual assault, rape
In New York, there are many times I’ve been catcalled on the train. I wrote this poem to release my bottled up anger about the constant catcalls and times I was seen as an object.
As a New Yorker, I’m used to the constant stares. The looks given from afar and maybe a couple of glares.
“What in the world is she wearing?” “Is that her real hair?”
As a New Yorker, I’ve had my fair share of being driven to fear I’d be snatched. Or was it because I’m a woman and I was out without a man?
As a woman, I’m used to the word slut.
“That slutty dress she had on, of course she was asking for it.”
Asking for it was written on his lips. When no was all over hers. But no, it’s okay to touch isn’t it? That Fashion Nova dress said to dig your filthy hands in her panties.
Wait. And her shoes said too, “have her scream saying no.” But her dress said “yes.” Right? Her slutty dress said yes, right?
As a woman, I understand what it’s like to walk down the street in fear a man would not take no as an answer. I live in fear that there wouldn’t even be a question. Just take it. And smile after.
As a woman, when I walk down the street I hear men telling me how I’m supposed to feel.
“You need to smile more,” says the man who drinks beer at 2 p.m.
Wonderful, I’ll smile more.
As a New Yorker, taking the train is stressful as it is. Which one is my stop? Jeez, I’m lost once again.
As a woman, the train is where he is. In a crowded car full of those who look for a mini skirt to come and grab.
“You look lost, let me help you find your way,” he says with his hand in his pants.
But I have common sense. I keep my head down. Don’t look him in the eyes, that’ll give him the right to come and pry.
As a woman, I’m told that it’s our words against theirs. They said it didn’t happen, or maybe I was drunk and forgot my consent.
“What were you wearing?” “Did you flirt with him that night?” “You looked like you had a lot to drink. Are you sure?”
Rape? That’s the word we don’t say, right?
Rape? What’s that?
Isn’t that when a woman accuses a man of assault to get his money? Or maybe she said this to get attention.
“I always knew she wanted attention.”
Rape? Well we aren’t really taught that word. But, hey, in case a bad situation comes, here’s whistle. Blow when you can, no one will hear you ‘cause he’ll have his hand over your mouth. But, hey here’s your whistle, maybe this’ll help.
As a woman, I’m told to keep my mouth shut. Rape is word you barely use because sex for you is a game you chose. You say when and where. You say the words that I do not want to hear.
As a woman, I’m ashamed of the way we view each other. We throw around the word whore. How could you let these men take you down, then take down another woman?
“She waited ten years to say he raped her?”
She didn’t wait, she was broken, and tried to heal. In those ten years, she still couldn’t breathe. So she spoke up in a courtroom full of men.
“Rape? What is that? Didn’t you consent? Wasn’t he your boyfriend? Wasn’t it YOUR bed?”
But she said no that night, he hit her twice. No one seemed to believe that.
As a woman, I’m scared.
I wrote this at 2 a.m. thinking about the train ride home, which included a group of older men catcalling me. As I was walking, I was counting in my head all the times when I was catcalled or told to smile and it made me realize it was way more than I could remember. I called a friend and we were exchanging stories about taking the train and the last time we were either groped or someone tried to get our numbers. That’s when I knew that I wasn’t the only one afraid of walking alone at night or taking the late train. Through that conversation, I realized I was scared of being a woman because I felt vulnerable.
Sue Najm is a high school senior, youth advocate, and organizer based in Brooklyn, NY. She is currently pursuing a career in film with hopes of becoming a screenwriter. She has worked with organizations such as Teens Take Charge and Youth Allies-Youth Advocates. Sue has also worked with the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development, hosting and moderating monthly town halls and with the Intergenerational Change Initiative as a student researcher. She's involved in multiple film programs such as Reel Works and Girl Be Heard.