“The year is 2018 and I’ve realized that nobody is safe long as she is alive.” – Halsey
Last year put women’s bodies, and the freedom they have over their bodies, under a sharp spotlight. Unless you have managed to completely avoid the Internet, people and life in general, at some point you will have come across the #MeToo hashtag that went viral in October 2017. The impetus behind the campaign was in an effort to highlight the extent of sexual harassment and assault that exists in our society, especially in the workplace, and to make victims realise that they are not alone. The campaign came about after the allegations of sexual misconduct against Harvey Weinstein became widely public, highlighting the widespread abuse endured by women by men in power. It spread quickly after Alyssa Milano (you may know her as Phoebe from Charmed) encouraged women to tweet it to give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.
The campaign continues to strengthen and grow, with famous voices sharing their personal stories of abuse and mistreatment, and more activists at the forefront focusing on the rights and freedoms of women required today as well as demanding greater and deeper social and political change. There are even allusions to a fourth wave of feminism, and the need for it more than ever before, especially in an era dominated by Trumpean philosophies and a culture that continues to mistreat and vilify women’s bodies and their worth.
The second annual New York Women’s March, which took place yesterday (20th January 2018), lent itself to one such powerful voice. Singer-songwriter, Halsey (real name Ashley Nicolette Frangipane), delivered an incredibly powerful and moving poem about her personal experiences with sexual assault and rape in place of a traditional speech that may be heard at rallies. I came across the video of the poem she delivered to large crowds whilst scrolling through Instagram and knew I had to share it on here.
If you haven’t heard of her, you may be familiar with her if you’ve listened to Justin Bieber’s incredibly successful album, Purpose; she featured in the song ‘The Feeling’. I am a fan of hers, and this is one of the many reasons I wanted to start Cloud Cafe & Coffee, to have a platform to share causes I support and care about, and the work of those whom I admire and believe are making an impact on society.
“I don’t really know how to do a speech unless it rhymes, so I’m gonna do a little poem for you guys,” she said.
“I don’t really know how to do a speech unless it rhymes, so I’m gonna do a little poem for you guys,” she said. She went on to share through her lyrics her accounts of being sexually assaulted as a child, and of accompanying her best friend to Planned Parenthood after her friend was raped. She detailed how a boyfriend would force her to have sex, how she’s had to perform on stage through a miscarriage, and how being in the public eye has not guarded her (or others) from being abused, and that she was naive to think that it ever would.
Coming from a family where I have seven siblings, six of whom are sisters, I am no stranger to instances of sexual harassment or assault. The reason why Halsey’s speech moved me so deeply is because the emotional truth of an issue that underlies the very fabric of our society is clear for all to see, from the story she delivers to the clarity of her words. It makes me scared to wonder how many women live and endure with these experiences in their day to day lives, without ever saying a word.
Below is the video of her delivering her extraordinarily heart-wrenching poem to participants at the 2018 New York’s Women’s March. It’s a must watch.
‘A Story like Mine’
Here’s the transcript:
It’s 2009 and I’m 14 and I’m crying
Not really sure where I am but I’m holding the hand of my best friend Sam
In the waiting room of a Planned Parenthood
The air is sterile and clean, and the walls are that not grey, but green
And the lights are so bright they could burn a hole through the seam of my jeans and
My phone is buzzing in the pocket
My mom is asking me if I remembered my keys ’cause she’s closing the door and she needs to lock it
But I can’t tell my mom where I’ve gone
I can’t tell anyone at all
You see, my best friend Sam was raped by a man that we knew ’cause he worked in the after-school program
And he held her down with her textbooks beside her
And he covered her mouth and then he came inside her
So now I’m with Sam, at the place with a plan, waiting for the results of a medical exam
And she’s praying she doesn’t need an abortion, she couldn’t afford it
And her parents would, like, totally kill her.
It’s 2002 and my family just moved and the only people I know are my mom’s friends, too, and her son
He’s got a case of Matchbox cars and he says that he’ll teach me to play the guitar if I just keep quiet
And the stairwell beside apartment 12 45, will haunt me in my sleep for as long as I am alive,
And I’m too young to know why it aches in my thighs, but I must lie, I must lie.
It’s 2012 and I’m dating a guy and I sleep in his bed and I just learned how to drive
And he’s older than me and he drinks whiskey neat and he’s paying for everything
This adult thing is not cheap
We’ve been fighting a lot, almost 10 times a week
And he wants to have sex, and I just want to sleep but
He says I can’t say no to him
This much I owe to him
He buys my dinner, so I have to blow him
He’s taken to forcing me down on my knees
And I’m confused ’cause he’s hurting me while he says please
And he’s only a man, and these things he just needs and
He’s my boyfriend, so why am I filled with unease?
It’s 2017 and I live like a queen
And I’ve followed damn near every one of my dreams
I’m invincible and I’m so fucking naive
I believe I’m protected ’cause I live on a screen
Nobody would dare act that way around me
I’ve earned my protection, eternally clean
Until a man that I trust gets his hands in my pants
But I don’t want none of that, I just wanted to dance
And I wake up the next morning like I’m in a trance and there’s blood
Is that my blood?
Hold on a minute
You see I’ve worked every day since I was 18
I’ve toured everywhere from Japan to Mar-a-Lago
I even went on stage that night in Chicago, when I was having a miscarriage
I mean, I pied the piper, I put on a diaper
And sang out my spleen to a room full of teens
What do you mean this happened to me?
You can’t put your hands on me
You don’t know what my body has been through
I’m supposed to be safe now
I earned it
It’s 2018 and I’ve realized nobody is safe as long as she is alive
And every friend that I know has a story like mine
And the world tells me we should take it as a compliment
But then heroes like Ashley and Simone and Gabby, McKayla and Gaga, Rosario, Aly
Remind me this is the beginning, it is not the finale
And that’s why we’re here
And that’s why we rally
It’s Olympians and a medical resident and not one fucking word from the man who is President
It’s about closed doors and secrets and legs and stilettos from the Hollywood hills to the projects in ghettos
When babies are ripped from the arms of teen mothers and child brides cry globally under the covers
Who don’t have a voice on the magazine covers
They tell us take cover
But we are not free, until all of us are free
So love your neighbor, please treat her kindly
Ask her story and then shut up and listen
Black, Asian, poor, wealthy, trans, cis, Muslim, Christian
Listen, listen, and then yell at the top of your lungs
Be a voice for all those who have prisoner tongues
For the people who had to grow up way too young
There is work to be done
There are songs to be sung
Lord knows, there’s a war to be won.
Featured image sourced from The New York Times