Lily Myers “Shrinking Women”

Lily Myers performing “Shrinking Women” at the 2013 College National Poetry Slam

This girl says everything I have ever wanted to say about my body and the horrible standards women are held too. Myers starts off my exploration of spoken word or slam poetry. When I hear the words slam poetry my Disneyfied mind automatically goes to this scene in an Extremely Goofy Movie:

Now that I’m older I’m starting to understand slam poetry is not that simple, nor is it all about the snaps. Although if I ever go to a slam poetry reading I am going to snap, even if I’m the weirdo in the corner doing it.

Slam poetry began as a popular movement in the 1990s. This movement really revitalized poetry as a spoken medium. Poetry began as an oral tradition; Even the epics, such as The Illiad, were performed or recited rather than read. Today slam poetry is not just a recitation of a written poem but a performance. These poems often tackle generational issues or current events and social, economic, racial, and gender injustices.

To really appreciate this kind of poetry you need to see it and hear. A recitation makes you focus on the rhythmic qualities of the poem as well as the content. If I had Myers poem in my hand now there would be pencil marks all over it, but because I listened to her words my mind wanders to her message again and again.

In Myers’ “Shrinking Women” she delves into her relationship with food and her mother’s relationship with food. “I wonder if my lineage is one of women shrinking…” And from there she further explores the roles of women and men in the world. What I found particularly interesting is her comments on how women subconsciously pick up social cues that boil down to passivity. We are taught to be silent. We are taught to be thin. And pretty. We are taught to hold our opinions: “I asked five questions in genetics class today and all of them started with I’m sorry.” At this moment her audience erupts in cheers, because it’s true and yet no one knows it until one of us says it. It’s like we can’t stand to “bother” people even if what we have to say is legitimate or intelligent. Even in today’s society a lot of women have to struggle through these layers of bullshit for anybody to really hear us.

Her poem reminded me of a conversation I had with a guy friend of mine. He was mocking me for the amount of time I spent getting ready in the morning. Now, I’m not one of those girls who piles on the makeup or curls and sprays my hair everyday, nor are my outfits particularly fashionable/complex. Yet, he can walk outside in a hoodie and sweatpants, whereas I would feel incredibly uncomfortable in the same outfit. And he made fun of me for this insecurity, “Who cares what you look like?” I do, they do, society does. We’re taught from a young age that looks matter, they’re taught to wash the mud off. We’re taught that socks and sandals are a No-No, they do it anyway. In my experience women are more likely to settle for a man who is less attractive than they are, while men rarely do the same.  I guess what I’m trying to say is even in the modern, progressive society I have been raised in women are still held to impossible physical standards and men laugh at them.