When I was fourteen they held a personal defense training for all the girls in my high school. It took
for the male demonstrator to get me onto my chest on the floor. I felt for the first time what it is like to be held down. I felt how powerless I can become. If there is a world in which I am not a woman I do not know what I would be. I have heard too many stories of ex-girlfriends left dead by morning. Last year, students in my neighbourhood woke in the night to find
strange men crouched over their bodies.
I dream of my ex-boyfriend pushing open my bedroom window in my sleep. I check twice that the doors are locked. I circle his name on a map of places to look should I disappear. I practice swinging a metal baseball bat as if it could serve any purpose at all because it took
for the demonstrator to get me onto my chest on the floor. His body an armored shield. His knee a pin against my back. If there is a world in which I am not a woman I do not know what I would be. I have read too many stories of past lovers killed in a car’s backseat. Last Saturday, a man at a bus stop
whistled at me,
words curled into the form of a fist. I wonder what the boys did on personal defense day. If they were taught how to safeguard against assaulting someone. Last winter, a man cornered me at the top of a hill, his laughter condensing into
all the ways he might kill me.
I wonder what the boys did on personal defense day. I want to be the kind of woman who catcalls men back. I want to be a girl who can flip a boy onto his chest in sixteen seconds. I write a list of the things I will say the next time a stranger calls out at me on the street. I fear that, come time, I will open my mouth and an
Lisa Shen: “When I was in grade nine, all the girls had to do a ‘personal defense’ training. A man in full body armor tackled us one by one in a sexual assault simulation, and we were instructed on how to fend off the attack. The main thing I learned was that I had no chance of fighting back. This poem is about the culture of fear surrounding girlhood and womanhood, and how we need to address the root causes of gender-based violence by educating teens about consent.” (web)