image courtesy Kathie McMillan

image courtesy Kathie McMillan

I was 11 when the boys clustered around me at lunch, calling names:
skank, hoser, slut, scumbag, stupid butt-ugg bitch.
I don’t recall why they hated me, only their sneering baby faces
and those skinny chests puffed up with imaginary muscles.

We knew we’d probably be raped sooner or later, my friends and I all knew.
The knowing was something we carried tucked between our legs like a blade.
If one of us forgot and let her guard down, we’d get angry:
How could you let that happen, we’d wonder. How could you forget?

So I planned it carefully. A nice boy on a hillside overlooking the city.
Broad daylight sufficed since I wanted to do it in the open, natural, like any other animal.
I didn’t know how, after deed was done, he’d spring to his feet like a fighter
evading the count and sprint up the path to straddle the summit, fists raised to the sky.

There’s a delicate line between giving and losing, owing and giving,
taking and stealing, giving and taking away.
Or maybe it’s not a line at all but a layer of wet silk, a quavering doodle,
a tidal line evaporating in the sand.

On that line, I became a woman. A woman is not born, she’s made. But when? When Adam
needs something to keep him warm. When the doctor says so. When she is told not to climb
too high, to pull her skirt down or a boy will see her underwear.
With eggs or their fertilization. When someone makes her.

Like that time a guy drove me to his home instead of mine. I shouldn’t have gotten into his car
or I shouldn’t have gotten out. I should’ve refused to enter his apartment, should’ve said no
louder, but I was just an obstacle to be mounted, a scumbag, a scabbard. I didn’t call it rape
so I could at least control the semantics. Taking the blame let me believe it would never happen again.

We all have lists of things we did and did not choose. Did-and-did-nots, too.
And when someone’s decision outweighs ours, we get to choose under which column we list it.
There is a fourth option, a box with a lid where you can stuff the muddle of things that happen anyway.
I forgot the things I couldn’t change and chose my husband carefully.

I had daughters, one and two. Birth was a powerful surrender.
I gazed at those faces for hours, watching to see what she would and would not choose.
Every moment, every year, a new angle rises to the surface.
On their faces ambiguity is clear, questions ripple with muscle.

Then when my first was 11, a boy at school called her a whore.
He said he was only joking. He walked up behind her, put his hand on her shoulder
and said, “Did you know that most rapes start with some kind of casual contact?”
He thought it was funny, and so did his friends.

How could I let that happen? How could I forget? I recite a litany of things I did and didn’t do;
can-and-cannots rock me from side to side. If I hold her head in both hands, press my palms
to her ears, and love her deeply, maybe.
Maybe, maybe pulls us forward.

Let’s watch a movie, she said, one you liked when you were my age, and that was easy
that was Saturday Night Fever and all the girls lined up on a square of asphalt during recess
and we’d all do the hustle, clomping up and down, side to side on our cork platforms
while the boys on the other side of a cyclone fence pretended not to notice.

So we watched together, only I somehow failed to remember
how two women are accosted before the opening credits are done rolling
how the main character tries to rape his dance partner because they didn’t win.
How could I blank out a gang rape in the backseat of a car?

The girl onscreen struggles and sobs under boys who writhe like mindless maggots, all mouth,
no ears and no eyes, and I realize my girl is lying stiff as a mannequin
her eyes are two mouths that scream without sound
She says why are we watching this, can we please turn it off?

What else have I done to her, what blades of knowledge planted deep
what litany of can and cannot does she use to sing herself to sleep
thoughts grown nacreous, keening and honing and thrumming inside.

But it’s harvest time. I hold my truth in hand
whetted, bone hard, and heavy.

Look how sharp, how beautiful.

About Anna Fonté

Girl in the Hat, aka Anna Fonté, is an author who writes about invisibility, outsider status, everyday monsters, and her attempts to befriend the neighborhood crows. The things she writes want you to look at them.


  1. Liz Dorfman

    This is stunning. Beautiful, scary, true. And viscerally familiar–right down to stuffing away the awful parts of that movie, holding on to the glitter and the beat of what remained. Knowledge is power. In your daughters’ cases, girl power of the best, most potent stuff, and your truth will arm them well. I feel a strong responsibility to raise my sons to treat girls better than we were treated. When I told them about one of the times a group of guys thought it would be fun to toss pennies down my shirt, or pluck bra straps and snap–hard–I could see by the stricken looks in their eyes how out of the realm of possibility that is in their world. I can still feel the sting, right between the shoulder blades, and deeper inside, the sting of tears brushed aside with eyes averted, drawn to the seagulls circling above.

  2. It’s wonderfully written. Every girl can relate to your words here!Hats off for such a piece… 🙂

  3. This is beautifully honest and sharp.

  4. We must remember every detail…

  5. That has the absolute beauty of truth shining through it. Thank you for writing it.

  6. Painfully, awfully true and shockingly, beautifully written. My five-year-old girl stands next to me playing peekaboo as I write this. I must go lock her away in a tower. (How did we survive that?)

  7. That’s very inspiring big up!

  8. Pingback: The Week’s End // All Sorts of Interesting Stuff | ZEN AND Π

  9. Anne, you the master of going where other’s fear to tread and making the journey beautiful even though the landscape is horrifying.

  10. So sharp and true. Will we ever be free?

  11. bohemianstqueen

    This is so powerful and beautiful. It completely struck me with how familiar and horrifying some of the things we have to deal with are. Well done!!

  12. Briliant, i like your post and inspiring , thank you and good morning!

  13. patricemfoster

    Powerful piece! Where do we stand as women in the eyes of men only an object. We have to claim our power and to do this supporting and continue to reach young girl….

  14. Reblogged this on BoylandBlogs and commented:

  15. This was so well done. Love it!

  16. This is so multi-dimensional and deep. You have splayed it wide open. ❤

  17. This cuts me. How terrible that I consider myself fortunate to not have children because I am spared of the responsibility of educating a boy on how real men should really behave, and how women should be treated, and I don’t have to wistfully promise myself that my daughters generation will be different. Their sexuality is not a weapon that will hurt only themselves. What a terrible beautiful peice.

  18. WOW…. This is so deep, how can you write like that?

  19. Very candid…Love the honesty and how the writing flows like water in the river…

  20. Wow. What a great piece to read. Thank you for sharing this.

  21. Wonderfully written! Thank you for sharing this, it was deep and beautiful.
    Greetings from Norway!

  22. “She says why are we watching this can we please turn it off…”

    This stopped my breath a little. Beautiful work.

  23. Nice one
    Love the way she lets it out with careless abandon 😉

  24. Beautiful yet terrifying and true.

  25. This resonated within my soul so deeply I feel compelled to write my own story. Wrote it in a journal that I ripped to shreds years ago.
    I have not forgotten.
    Those that say oh it’s over, you survived. You are so lucky, it could have been so much worse.
    I wonder what ppl are thinking that say such mindless comments.
    Then the world wonders why sexual assaults go unreported, or spoken of to those we know.
    Silence often feels easier. Safer. Thank you for sharing your words. You are brave & write beautifully of tragic experiences. Love and light to you always.

  26. spillinwords

    this is soo Beautiful. :’]

  27. Reblogged this on analishaappleberry and commented:
    She is an inspiration to the poetic mind and soul. I am in love with her work.

  28. this piece is searing, painfully honest and extremely powerful,

  29. Beautiful. Wonderfully written.

  30. Beautifully written, wow

  31. Such a powerful read! Thank you for your words.

  32. lostat30blog

    Amazing! I want to comment in-depth but i’m lost for words

  33. Reblogged this on Illuminated Literation and commented:
    Writing goals, right here. Anna Fonté, you are a master of the craft.

  34. I Re-blogged, commenting “Writing goals, right here. Anna Fonté, you are a master of the craft.”

  35. Powerful words and resonates so deeply with a shared feminine experience.

  36. Beautifully written scary thing that every girl is afraid of!! We are in a world where we wanna see/check the shadow behind us to feel safe.. Sometimes it’s scarier even if a girl walks behind.

  37. Is she a published writer/author? Because if she’s not, she should be. Everyone else here commented what I wanted to say.

  38. Oh, Anna. Thank you for finding the words.

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