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I Was Taught

When I was five I was taught my worth was a number on a scale
Or the fullness of my lips, TV taught me not to fail
I was taught to smile widely, I was taught to be thin
I was taught to conform because I could never win
I was taught that I could think inside the box, but never out
I was taught never to raise my voice, or cry, or scream, or shout
Years of this eventually seemed to take its toll on me
It's harmful to tell a little girl she has to act like a lady.

When I was seven, I was taught that ‘boys will be boys’
I had to play with Barbies when they stole the other toys
Discouraged from maths, steered away from science,
Dressed all in pink and sheltered to ensure compliance
I was taught not to get dirty, taught not to climb trees
Taught not to play outside and get mud on my knees
I called out for help, but no one seemed to care
I was taught from the beginning that life was unfair.

When I was eleven, a boy shoved his hands up my shirt
I was taught not to dress provocatively so I wouldn't get hurt
I was taught not to let it get to me and achieve good grades at school
But I was taught that if I tried hard then I'd never be cool
My life was perfect – and I should have been glad
But barely into double digits, I was numb and sad
Though forced to keep quiet, and polite, and formal
I was a teenage girl – it was perfectly normal.

When I was fifteen, I was struck straight across the face
When a teenage boy taught me that I should know my place
I told him I wasn't like other girls, because to me,
It was the female sex that I was sure to be the enemy
I was taught that girls are b*****s, all girls are w****s,
& All girls are annoying, and all girls are bores
I didn't realise quite what I was being taught then
To detach myself from girls in order to please men.

I've been taught to hate, and it is nothing new
But I love who I am, and I love other girls too
Girls who don dresses, girls who wear shorts
Girls who like art and girls who play sports
And I love men too, despite what they are taught
And I will forgive them and forget the battles I have fought
I stick up for humankind; we're all in this together
This war on femininity cannot last forever.

by Francesca Gardner (15)
Bourne Grammar School, Lincolnshire

Competition - Poetopia

Copyright remains with the author.