On The Exhaustion of Womanhood by Oona Phillips

On The Exhaustion of Womanhood
Oona Phillips

There is something about him
Saying “no means yes”
That caused my skin to almost shed itself in disgust
And this may have been a joke
But who jokes about that shit?
Women are told all over social media that “no means no”
I have been told all my life by my mother that only I control myself
And that message is too important to belittle with joking
When I was 16,
And my boyfriend had said to me: “stop means go”
That he believed when a girl told him to stop, it meant to keep going
The logic of this
Made my stomach churn and my head pound
I was 16.
16, and being told that my words will never be taken seriously.
16, and learning that men will take my words and read them as they want to read them
They’ll ignore what I’m actually saying
They’ll hear the sounds come out of my mouth and change them
And this is frankly unacceptable.
At 18, with a different boy
I’m repeating “no means no” with a constant request to “please don’t do that”
Followed by an “I don’t want to” and a “no, I really just don’t want to do that right now.”
18, learning that my words are never really heard
Learning a man will choose to hear me if he feels like it
When will I be able to say something and have it honestly understood
When will men learn when a woman says to stop, she means for him to stop
When a woman says no, it means no under every single circumstance
I’m tired of my words being twisted
Saying “no” feels like a scream out into an endless, empty void
No one listens, no matter how many times I say it
No matter how many times I ask you to stop you won’t
Like when we were in bed I told you to stop touching me and you acted like you didn’t hear me
Like you didn’t hear that I said I wasn’t in the mood
As if you only choose to hear the things you want
I’m tired of feeling ignored
My words are just speck on the wall
Ignore it as much as you can
I’m sick of feeling held like property,
My face being grabbed like an item,
Held “romantically” but more so condescendingly
Like my body is a toy, an object to look at until you get sick of it
Toss it in the trash or on the side of the road when you’re done
I’m sick of being grabbed by my wrist, pulled around like a prisoner
Like if I don’t do as you want it will cause problems
Like the time I wanted to go into a store to look around but I wasn’t “allowed”
Grab ahold of my wrists and tug at my body, yanking my flesh off of my bones
I’m tired of holding my tongue, but I’ve learned that my words are meaningless to you
I’m tired of being talked down to or treated as less
Like I don’t know what I’m talking about.
Because I don’t “pay attention”
Because I’m clueless, and fragile, and stupid.
Because I am a woman
I’m sick of being laughed at for my mistakes
Of being criticized for my every move
Like when I start to become forgetful
Or when I find your jokes offensive
If I don’t find it funny I’m too uptight, and I need to “get a sense of humor”
I’m sick of being judged by my appearance, or clothing, or leg hair or armpit hair
It shouldn’t matter what hair I have on my body, I am a human being
And no one can make me alter my appearance to please them
It should be okay if I don’t want to do the dishes or to wash the laundry
I shouldn’t be expected to do it all myself
We come home after a long day, and your time to rest is now but my work still hasn’t finished
I’m tired of cleaning up after other people’s messes
Being a mother to someone who already has one
To someone who refuses to learn to grow up
It makes me nauseous to think that women deal with this their whole lives
It makes me disgusted to think that women deal with this all over the world
I dream of a world free of judgment
A world where a woman is beautiful no matter how much hair she has and where on her body it is,
Or a world where a woman is not judged by her clothing, treated as less for wearing too much or too little
Like when I’m told I can’t go out in what I’m wearing because other people will see me
A world where women are in control of themselves
A world where a woman’s body cannot be controlled by legislature
A world where I can be free, untouched by judging eyes or controlling word


Oona Phillips is an art major at UNCG, striving towards her goal of becoming an artist and animator. She also creates poetry and music and is very excited to share her work.

Follow her art career on Instagram at @oons.draws

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