The "F" Word
By Linda Eve Diamond
Some cringe at this word—as if it’s the downfall of society
snarling it, pronouncing it with a sneer—the f bomb
that chips away at glass ceilings, the fem-fatal ism
feared as a threat to a precious, delicate imbalance
as it questions perceptions and expectations
and illuminates dispiriting statistics and lists
even oddly ubiquitous linguistic tricks
the f word, itself, telling—as an ism…
Deep voices on high say to be quiet and for f—’s sake
stop saying the f word. There’s no need for feminism.
Feminists, they say, sound angry and ought to know
that women are already equal and don’t earn less and
also there are reasons women do earn less, but relax;
no one said we’re worthless; we’re just worth less.
It’s all in how you calculate, they say, and
feminists are clearly way too calculating…
Meanwhile, women—without whose labor
no one would be anywhere—
go on being underpaid, under-respected
underrepresented and under-protected
fighting to gain and hold every bit of ground
and told what’s been fought for was “given”
hearing that hormones make us unbalanced,
unable to compete, untrustworthy to lead
from certain men who take pride in rage,
excusing the inexcusable, out-of-control
destruction allowed because “boys will be boys”
and it’s just hormones; women don’t understand.
Men can be driven by testosterone, but at least
it’s not one of those terrifying lady hormones…
Generations come and go in the flickering
gaslight as speakers blare with old refrains:
Be patient. It’s not your time.
We’ll tell you when it is.
You’d need a unified message but
all women don’t agree on everything.
Look how far you’ve come.
You should be smiling.
It’s just the way it is.
It’s just the way it’s been.
Feminist voices answer in echoes
through an unjust status quo:
It’s not just the way it is.
Not just the way it’s been.
Imagine a world without feminism
because the word is no longer needed
(outside of history books
and cautionary tales).
This poem first appeared in the International Women's Writing Guild publication, Network (Fall 2022).