I’ve been long living my life in the pursuit of respect. I made a decision as a girl that respect meant being well-read, but well-read doesn’t change the way red eyes find your red lips and red hands want to whisper about your wide hips and maybe, I thought, I’m reading the wrong books.
Out with Nicholas Sparks and Jodi Picoult.

So I read Kundera and Kesey, Dillard and Camus, Vonnegut, Jr. and Garcia Marquez and Hesse, and that’s why the day his groping gaze found my chest I was surprised. I said, “Hey, mother fucker. Have you got mush behind your eyes?” I said, “his love for Daisy is manic, not sound.”
I said, “the metaphor of the Ministry of Truth isn’t so far out there now,”
I said, “hey mother fucker, are you even listening to me?”
And eyes stuck to collarbones to make it known I’m smaller so I listened.
And I
started reading

I read Hawking and Heller, Steinbeck and Kafka, Plath and Voltaire and Kant.
I looked White Teeth in the eye and said, “what the fuck do you want?”
I said, “There’s an essay from 1948 that explains why the shit you’re still trying to explain away is not oh-fucking-kay to say to a woman.”
I said, “Kant argues that it is duty that makes us moral,
argues that there are perfect and imperfect duties making up the morality in our world
tells us that as humans, our only perfect moral duty to each other is to not get in each other’s way.
I said, “hey mother fucker, you had one job.
Get the fuck. out of my way.”
I said, “look here’s the thing, I can loan you the book
Three quarters of a century ago Kant explained
Feminism is a perfect duty of man.”
I said, “man, have you ever read a book? like, ever?”

Two sports bras and a haircut later and the cats don’t call as often but they still bring their venom; they still haven’t stopped talking. If I’m not interested I’m confused, and since I wear my clothes just right, just tight enough for my body to be seen, hands find entitlement and drip it down my back and down my thighs and against my neck.

I said, “activism is an imperfect duty, Kant would say, because we consider it morally optional. You’re completely within your rights to shut your fucking mouth and walk away.”
and because I have a tongue
I open my mouth and I speak
Because I have knees
I stand and I speak
I stand
and I
because respect is something I ever had to try to earn
because I don’t have the privilege of not being seen
because the privilege I do have I use to get loud
I use my privilege to get loud!
because I could hit you with the bell hooks
dance circles around you with Angelou and Hurston,
because it was a big mistake
to give a little girl a book
and tell her
to learn to be quiet

My book bag packs a fucking punch
and being well-read
taught me how to break
the silence

Ashley Wylde
November 2nd, 2015

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