Poetry Friday: 50 Ways To Be A Woman

Jan 18, 2019

In addition to Women's Marches across Arizona tomorrow, a separate march is also scheduled to take place in Flagstaff. It's the third annual March For Love, a local movement promoting not just women's rights, but the rights of racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQIA, immigrants and the environment. One of tomorrow's speakers is Rivkah Gamble, a spoken word artist and diversity education researcher at Northern Arizona University. Rivkah brings us today's Poetry Friday segment, 50 Ways to be a Woman. 

Rivkah Gamble, spoken word artist and Diversity Education Researcher at Northern Arizona University
Credit Rivkah Gamble

Rivkah Gamble: I actually really struggled with this poem. All I had was a title going into it. And so, when I sat down to write it, I thought about the “women’s movement”, you know, that’s in quotations, and how far we’ve come, how the world is kind of starting to look so much different now. Like, there’s now a Gillette commercial about how men should be more accountable for their actions. I think that’s amazing. You know, we did that.

But I also thought about how much we have left to do and how it can seem kind of daunting. How we are taught, kind of unconsciously or subconsciously to see ourselves and value ourselves in the way other people value us. So, when I sat down to write it, I just tried to put that on paper about how it’s not important how others see us, but it matters how we see ourselves.

So, this poem is called 50 Ways to be a Woman

This is a poem about women

but it's not a women's poem

there are no hearts and flowers and traditional feminism here there must be 50 ways to be a woman, after all this poem is about every one of us who's ever felt small or ugly or less than in our own bodies like, if we could only be as pretty as or as tall as or as thin as or as blonde as then happiness would just fall at our feet like in a Dior commercial

I wonder sometimes what would Gloria or Rosa think of our civil rights protests and women's marches how would Susan and Mary judge how we've used the vote they fought so hard to win for us would Simone count her sacrifices as justified by the allowances we give our celebrities our directors and producers our musicians and our clergy...

our president

What would Marsha or Sylvia think about

how far we've come

about how far we have left to go

and what we allow ourselves to settle for

there must be 50 ways to be a woman

but none of those ways deal with traffic lights or begin with words like semester and history Being a woman is the beginning of who we are for better or worse it informs everything about how we face the world whether that happens to be a struggle for recognition or validation or a struggle to be taken seriously at all being a woman isn't about motherhood or being a wife or being a daughter or a sister (although that can certainly be part of it) its not about how we can relate to others that validates us as women but how we relate to ourselves we make the woman, not anyone else and what are we marching for if not for the right for every one of us femme, stud, butch, lesbian, straight, trans, cis, and genderfluid to live as our best selves and for our sisters in arms to do the same

this is a poem about women

but it's not a women's poem

this is a poem about every one of us

there must be 50 ways to be a woman, after all

Poetry Friday is produced by KNAU's Gillian Ferris. If you have an idea for a segment, drop her an email at gillian.ferris@nau.edu.