Be a Woman By Lydia Wang

Be a Woman

We are still unlearning what our mothers taught us:
to be a girl is to be something soft, something without teeth.
We grow into our mouths later, but we never learn how to use them.

“This is what it means to become a woman,” our mothers tell us,
voices dripping with syrup because they understand.
(I was a woman the first time a male teacher made a joke about my body.)
(I was a woman the first time a stranger on the Internet said he wanted to fuck me.)
(I was a woman the first time a boy touched me when I wanted him to touch me.)
(I was a woman the first time a boy touched me when I did not want him to touch me.)

Men become men when they are right and smart
but we are something different;
women become women when we have been experienced by men.
There is the talk about pouring our own drinks at parties and there
is the talk about walking home alone at night and there is
the talk about how to reject a man, how to let him down easy.
We are always on the defensive. We are always please, sorry,
thank you, but no thank you, always swallowing teeth
because we bite our tongues with too much vigor.

“This is what it means to become a woman,” I will someday tell my daughters
as they forgive themselves for their soft parts and their edges,
forgive themselves for the bleeding and the hatred
and not knowing what to say when he leers at you from a car window
and not knowing what to do when he touches your thigh.
If I have daughters someday, they will be fire.
They will be brave. They will unlearn what the world has taught them,
to always cross their legs and always sit up straight,
twist their Chapstick lips into smiles even when it hurts.
They will unlearn that they are small casualties.
They will unlearn how to swallow.

By Lydia Wang


Lydia Wang is a writer, feminist, and caffeine enthusiast. Originally from Boston, she now lives in New York, where she studies creative writing and topics in social and cultural analysis at NYU. In her free time, she likes to spend too much money at the bookstore, rant about feminism, and fall in love with strangers on public transportation. Visit her online at

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