BARK B*TCH

As a feminist, I can’t support everything that’s been said here tonight. But as someone who hates Ann Coulter, I’m delighted. (i)

There’s no woman I hate enough to deny a tampon if she asked me for one, not even Ann Coulter.

From: KH
To: Me
Subject: Connect with me on Clue Connect!
Hello! I’d like to share some information with you, using the Clue [period tracker] app.
You can view my past, current and predicted periods, fertile windows and PMS by going to this link. (ii)

Having your period is one kind of wound. Not having it is another. (iii)

My mother never talked to me about menstruation. When I was in high school, my period stopped for years. I was too afraid to ask anyone about it. I was 21 years old before I had periods on a regular basis.

I don’t think I would date a girl who can’t have children. It’s like, what’s the point if you can’t get married and have a family? (iv)

Everyone has that one friend who asks you to go to the drugstore with them to buy a pregnancy test. When I was in high school, we would go to the Walgreens near my parents’ house. The cashier was a supremely apathetic 20-something with a failing SKA band, and my friend knew he would sell her alcohol if she flirted. So that was the ritual. Go to the drugstore, wine, and a pregnancy test. She would drink the whole bottle of wine no matter what the stick read.

In college, I had to buy a pregnancy test when I skipped a period after being sexually assaulted. This high school friend and I hadn’t talked in years; she had graduated early to marry some military officer. But when I got fucked up on cheap drug store wine that night, first for the courage and then in relief, I thought of her. I missed when we used to lay in her bed and whisper about how okay everything is, in the big picture. I missed being the sober one.

Drunk girls in the bar bathrooms are the most benevolent humans. (v)

When you see one drunk girl try to put lipstick on another drunk girl. #thatsfriendship ♣ (vi)

Update: there is crying in the women’s restroom. Big life choices being made. (vii)

You should slow down on the piercings. You’re a decent-looking girl, but that’s a red flag for guys. (viii)

Red flag—meaning ‘Warning,’ ‘Danger,’ ‘Stop.’ Red flags were used to indicate a ship’s intention to do battle. Perfect.
Any way I can perform to tell people I don’t come in peace.

I became very interested in the show RuPaul’s Drag Race when I moved to a new country and had ample free time to myself. I was fascinated by the illusion created by makeup and padding and wigs.I took note of what pronouns were used for different people on the show and at what times, dissecting the ways gender is formed and performed in this subset of the queer community. I wished I was beautiful like those queens. I wished I was brave enough to try to be beautiful.

Braver at night . . . lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind. (ix)

As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted / By a woman wailing for her demon-lover (x)

Oh, Hannah! Your ears! How will you get a husband like that? (xi)

I like the domesticated type. Blonde. Think June Cleaver. (xii)

It was then Cass took off her high-necked dress, and I saw it – the ugly jagged scar across her throat. It was large and thick.

“God damn you, woman,” I said from the bed, “God damn you, what have you done?”
“I tried it with a broken bottle one night. Don’t you like me anymore? Am I still beautiful?”
 I pulled her down on the bed and kissed her.
 She pushed away and laughed, “Some men pay me that ten and then I undress and they don’t want to do it.
 I keep the ten. It’s very funny.” (xiii)

For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge. (xiv)

I shaved my head to win an argument which the other person didn’t know we were having. And every day my hair grows longer, and my suicide attempt scars stay the same ropy-textured pink. The things I’ve done to politicize my body, to reclaim what I felt was being taken away from me in small, inevitable measures.

The first time I lit a cigarette, I knew I would put one out on my skin one day. I knew it, in the same way, I know my name.

Hearing is facilitated, in part, by those little bones called the hammer and the anvil. The world has so many hammers for people like me, and it feels like I can do nothing more than become an anvil: stand firm.

Q. How do you tell which women’s basketball team won the championship?
A. Whichever team stops crying first. (xv)

Bitches ain’t shit but hos and tricks. (xvi)

Walking in my hometown is agreeing to accept the things men yell at you from cars, no matter how reductive.

Bring that juicy booty over here. (xvii)

One is not born a woman; one becomes one.(xviii)

Every time someone starts a statement with “Ladies,” I want to scream or run away. It’s a form of address that echoes with reminders of how to behave.
I want to object.

I want to stitch myself shut. (xix)

When I went to the urgent care clinic to get stitches, the receptionist asked: “Is it an emergency?”
I thought for a moment: “not really.”

Then, I took a number like someone at a deli or a fabric store cutting counter. 64. And I sat calmly in the waiting room while I bled through my poorly secured gauze from home.

The nurse told me, after she hissed through her teeth, “My daughter has this problem.”

I wasn’t surprised.

She asked my major in school; her daughter wants to be a creative writer too. I’m lucky I’m such a sensitive person; it’s a gift to feel so deeply. Do I have people to talk to about this? Am I on medication?

The doctor entered the room syringe-first. The first time I felt faint was when he stuck that needle deep into the red-and-white-walled wound to inject analgesic.

Later that day, when I told my best friend I had to get stitches, he sighed a long-suffering sigh and asked; “For?”
“No, five,” I replied. He was furious that I made him laugh.

men can do best, and women know it well (xx)

When one of my closest friends came out to me as nonbinary (they is, they is, they is), I corrected pronouns in my head and my speech for years until use of their name sounded over and over in a story that was expected.

I think about renouncing my gender of woman often, even knowing it won’t change what’s happened to me already because of my womanhood.

(1) The appropriation of women’s time. (2) The appropriation of the products of women’s bodies. (3) Women’s sexual obligation. (4) Obligation to care for whichever members of the family can’t care for themselves as well as for healthy male family members. (xxi)

A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.(xxii)

Women should be silent in church. (xxiii)

Even if you can get past the colonization (let’s be honest, white supremacy) Christianity justified—still justifies—around the world, you can’t get around what the Bible teaches about women, how the Bible places women in an inferior position. Give me cultural context. Talk to me about translations by dead church fathers, of words from dead languages. Even let women be chaplains, pastors, bishops, and saints. I know what it’s like to find out, after two years of praying together, that my brother in Christ doesn’t believe women can be leaders.

I remember what it’s like to be told: “Men are more visual creatures than women, and if you wear revealing clothing, you’re making them sin.”

I was there in a sea foam bridesmaid dress when my friend’s wedding vows gave to her the order to submit, and her groom’s vows did not.

A note regarding words and the Word: anything you have to circuitously interpret to benefit you can be interpreted away from you at a moment’s notice.

At the North American Review bicentennial conference in June 2015, Stephen Schwartz gave a keynote speech where he described the way great writing is the result of writing into a silence.

My writing, I prefer to think, is facing into the noise of a world determined not to listen to me.

I sound my barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world.(xxiv)

Old English bicce “female dog,” probably from Old Norse bikkjuna “female of the dog” (also fox, wolf, and occasionally other beasts). As a term of contempt applied to women, it dates from c. 1400; of a man, c. 1500, playfully, in the sense of “dog.” It was used among male homosexuals from the 1930s. In modern (1990s, originally African-American vernacular) slang, its use with reference to a man is sexual, from the “woman” insult. (xxv)

If he thought I was such a “bitch,” then I was definitely going to play that part. (xxvi)

End Notes:
[i] Jewel, “Comedy Roast of Rob Lowe”
[ii] email received 8 September, 2016, 7:50pm Greenwich Mean Time
[iii] Leslie Jamison, “Grand Unified Theory of Female Suffering,” from The Empathy Exams
[iv] My high school boyfriend, when I told him I hadn’t menstruated in over a year.
[v] tweet from @caseyghoul
[vi] tweet from @makdaddy_jones
[vii] tweet from @the_folk_diva, 6 August 2016, 10:05pm Central Standard Time
[viii] said to me in a bar on College Hill
[ix] Anne Sexton, “Her Kind”
[x] Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Kubla Khan”
[xi] My brother’s girlfriend, on seeing my stretched ears for the first time.
[xii] my best friend, rejecting my advances
[xiii] Charles Bukowski, “The Most Beautiful Woman in Town”
[xiv] Sylvia Plath, “Lady Lazarus”
[xv] My father’s favorite joke
[xvi] Dr. Dre
[xvii] said to me in a grocery store parking lot
[xviii] Simone de Beauvoir
[xix] Lacy M. Johnson, “The Other Side” 78
[xx] Anne Bradstreet, “Prologue”
[xxi] definition of main forms of sexage from Lois Tyson, Critical Theory Today
[xxii] 1 Timothy 2:9-15
[xxiii] Corinthians 14:33-35
[xxiv] Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”
[xxv] etymology dictionary online, “Bitch, noun”
[xxvi] Zoë Triska, “You Say ‘Bitch’ Like It’s A Bad Thing: Examining the Implications of the Notorious Word,” Huffington Post

Photo Credit: AlishaV Flickr via Compfight cc



Hannah Carr-Murphy

Hannah Carr-Murphy is a writer and musician from Black Hawk County, Iowa. She is currently pursuing a master’s in community music at University of Limerick, Ireland. Her poetry and essays can be found in ADANNA, Persephone’s Daughters, and the collection Exs (Final Thursday Press).

3 thoughts on “BARK B*TCH

  1. Stephanie OrtezStephanie Ortez Reply

    “The things I’ve done to politicize my body, to reclaim what I felt was being taken away from me in small, inevitable measures.” I wish I could explain how these lines resonate so deeply in my mind. Hannah, your writing is perfection the world is paying attention, don’t forget that.

  2. Nicole LyonsNicole Lyons Reply

    This is an amazing piece of unbelievable wow. I am lost for words at the moment, this is one of those essays that will ripple through time and help, and infuriate, and bring people together, and create change. This is absolutely outstanding, and so are you. Thank you for this. I am truly awed right now.

  3. Julie AndersonJulie Anderson Reply

    Hannah-
    I have read your essay now, ten times. The nuance, pain, hope and your urgent need to be understood has grabbed my heart and twisted it.
    I believe that you have a gift, the rare gift of being able to use your words to affect change.
    It is truly an honor to publish work like yours.
    Thank you for the privilege.

    Best-
    Julie

    P.S. I think you are beautiful – just the way you are.

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