The current state of feminism has occupied my mind lately, not the least because a poem I wrote 20 years ago, essentially a feminist manifesto, has gone viral. I never posted it, as it was written before the rise of the Internet, but it’s in Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, which won the National Book Award in 1994 and is still in print. The good news (for those older women who have lamented what they perceive as a lack of feminist fire in the younger generation) is that it’s young women who are posting it. The bad news is that it indicates that women’s experience has barely changed in 20 years. In this case, it's not fun to have written a poem that stands the test of time.
I wrote it after my fellow poet, Denise Duhamel, and I were two of four judges in a poetry slamat the Nuyorican. A couple of very young guys had just performed a piece that referenced women’s genitals in a derogatory way, and Denise and I caused a ruckus because we insisted on abstaining from voting; we felt our job was to rate the quality of the poem, not the content, but in this case the content was, to us, unacceptable. For the Men Who Still Don’t Get It, which I performed the next week, was an attempt to get them to see the world from our point of view. And, some of them told me afterward, it worked.
For the Men Who Still Don’t Get It (Carol Diehl)
all women were bigger and stronger than you
and thought they were smarter
women were the ones who started wars
too many of your friends had been raped by women wielding giant dildos
and no K-Y Jelly
the state trooper
who pulled you over on the New Jersey Turnpike
was a woman
and carried a gun
the ability to menstruate
was the prerequisite for most high-paying jobs
your attractiveness to women depended
on the size of your penis
every time women saw you
they'd hoot and make jerking motions with their hands
women were always making jokes
about how ugly penises are
and how bad sperm tastes
you had to explain what's wrong with your car
to big sweaty women with greasy hands
who stared at your crotch
in a garage where you are surrounded
by posters of naked men with hard-ons
men's magazines featured cover photos
of 14-year-old boys
tucked into the front of their jeans
and articles like:
"How to tell if your wife is unfaithful"
"What your doctor won't tell you about your prostate"
"The truth about impotence"
the doctor who examined your prostate
was a woman
and called you "Honey"
you had to inhale your boss's stale cigar breath
as she insisted that sleeping with her
was part of the job
you couldn't get away because
the company dress code required
you wear shoes
designed to keep you from running
And what if
after all that
women still wanted you
to love them.