October 24, 2013

JOHN: To All the Problem Gurls

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By REBECCA JOHN

I want to write something just for the problem gurls. That’s gurl with a “u” for all of us, regardless of gender identification, who want to pay homage to that girlhood inside of us that has been laughed at and scorned, but also want to expand that narrow, individualistic i to a more welcoming u that wraps us in a warm collective embrace. I’m talking about gurlhood as a shared experience and not a fixed identity.

This is for all the problem gurls who are made to feel like they are too much of anything. Too loud when there is something necessarily unsettling to say, too quiet when we use silence as refuge for self-preservation. Too marks us as an indefinite problem, distracting from the problems we are trying to articulate and putting the critical lens on our own “problematic” bodies instead. Laugh at those “too’s” and create your own language for yourself. We’re not too loud or too quiet, we’re just here and this is what we are.

This is for all the problem gurls who know displacement keenly. For those who walk around campus seeing portraits of white men everywhere, but not a single face that could have been one of their homegurls. For those who light up at familiar smells and sounds because they remind us of a home that exists in our heads. We’re looking for a sanctuary but also can’t sit in one place for too long because our movement is liberating. We’ve defied all sorts of expectations with our movement away from homes that were burning up or burning us up, our movement into schools that were not created for us but now accept us conditionally, our movement towards an explosion of unexpected places in our futures. We have to keep moving, and we’re problematic because we move.

This is for the problem gurls who feel themselves hardening from defending the battleground that their body is, but are still trying to find ways to be tender and spaces in which to be vulnerable. It’s exhausting to carry this fullness around and sometimes we just want to eat watermelon and watch the sky, get on a spaceship, leave our bodies and indulge in some sort of escapist fantasy. But that will always be a fantasy, because we have an inner fighting instinct that hibernates sometimes, but never seems to go away. Sometimes we have no choice but to harden, but we will always find ways to be gentle on our own terms. The way we boomerang from tough to tender is so problematic, and that is why we love it.

This is for the problem gurls who have learnt or are learning how to “touch the destruction” within themselves, in the words of Audre Lorde, and turn it into power. We’re so destructive: We tear down the reactionaries in our classrooms, we call out the offensiveness we hear in passing and we clobber ourselves up, being so at war with world. Sometimes we’re made to believe that all we do is cause destruction. But we’re just breaking down existing molds and working on creating new ones; we’re creative to the core but only our destruction is ever noticed. It doesn’t matter; it may seem problematic that our destruction and creativity are intertwined, but they are.

This is to all the problem gurls — embrace your problematic-ness, but don’t accept it. You’re actually revolutionary gurls.

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