These women’s bodies

In response to the 2017 Rio Olympics

It seems that everywhere I turn
People are talking about women’s bodies
I know it’s not a new phenomenon
Or even one that makes headlines
I just thought we were more evolved than this, you know?

And it’s not just men scrutinising women
But men and women, poking and prodding and demanding
proof of femininity, of womanhood
Like it’s something you can test on a 10-point scale

This is a poem for Caster Semenya
Venus and Serena, for María José Martínez-Patiño
Dutee Chand, Ewa Klobukowska, Santhi Soundarajan,
Stella Walsh and Helen Stephens

A poem for Siam
And every woman who’s forced to take off their burkini in public

When did it become more acceptable to be naked
than dressed in the clothes of your choice?

Why are we, men and women alike, so eager to dismiss talent?
Why is it so difficult to see difference
as something to be celebrated?

Why do we exact punishment for our fears and fuck ups
On the bodies of innocent women bathing on a beach?

While men can do no wrong.
Men can pull a Lochte no matter the consequences
Men are athletes first, no matter the crime
Hey Oscar, hey Brock Turner, hey OJ?

These women’s bodies are under siege
They’re caught in the crossfire
Of mediocre, self-obsessed, insecure assholes

For centuries, women have paid the price
for other people’s inadequacies.
For centuries, these women’s bodies
have been the site of horror stories.

Not even Harley Quinn can control the male gaze.

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