"We are girls taught to survive by using our bodies as Swiss Army knives."
In the slam poem "Girl Code 101" posted to Button Poetry, actress and poet Blythe Baird highlights the warnings women receive throughout their lives -- and just how constantly they affect us.
In the poem, which she performed at the 2014 National Poetry Slam, Baird expands on her Swiss Army knife theory, using body language to get the message across. She says we use "calculated scrunched-nose giggles and forearm lingers" as weapons to avoid male hostility. "We convince ourselves there is protection in being polite -- No, you can go first! -- girls, we have to be nice," Baird declares.
Baird rails against all the ways women are coached to take responsibility for their own safety. By age 12 others are "calling us women before we had a chance to," she says. At 13, we're given instructions to protect a sexuality we didn't know we had, "the year dad says wearing short skirts in the city is like driving without a seatbelt."
By age 17, "caution" gives way to full-fledged victim blaming: "We are answering to to guidance counselors who ask us 'Well, what were you wearing?'"
We have taken direction well. But it's time for a different route, which Baird sums up perfectly:
"Give me decisions. A wordless wardrobe, an opinion-less dress -- give me a city where my body is not public property."
Our clothes should not speak for us, and society should not prevent us from speaking. That's Human Code 101.