Academic Treatise on the Female Classification

Melissa J. Lytton
Jul 19, 2017 · 2 min read

I tried to write (this)
and I failed (you)
How do I boil
all women into

We are a category
so large
as to be absurd

How do I say
white queer girl
fucked in the head
mostly not fucked
in the body (anymore)
-this!- is what it means
to be
a woman

An old Star Trek quote
women are generally
different genitals
painted bodies
longer hair
We’d have to speak
in generalities
to explain ourselves
to an alien
to a mirror

But what about
male jockeys and
female pole vaulters
transitioning bodies and
XXY chromosomes
Yakuza tattoos and
skin-naked feminists
the honor in long native hair and
my childhood attraction
to Susan Powder?

What the fuck are
“Stereotypes exist
for a reason”
You can’t reason
with the part of my stomach
that tightens when a man
gets too close
goes too fast
even if I’ve had him inside me
even if I love him

You can’t reason
with a room full of women
who have never met
but all write about killing men
even those who
never had a hand
laid on them
share the trauma
dry roots just go deeper
where’s our fucking water?

Let’s be real
This is what we
really mean
when we say
“What is it
to be a woman?”
We are a group
defined not
by our common beliefs
common goals
common looks or
languages, politics or
but by our exclusion and
our common pain

But we are not common or
Fuck your plain Jane rhyme
Fuck your mother-knows-best lullabies and
check-this gender (sex) boxes
Fuck your skirts for
her and pants for

I will not be defined
by my pain
I will not be defined
by what you do to me
what you exclude from me
what you exude on me

I will not be defined by you
and I will not define
another woman
so you may easily categorize
fit me in your box
and I will burn it down

Because I am a
and I will not take
your shit
any more

— — — — — — —

Originally published in In the Questions: Poetry by and About Strong Women (Spider Road Press, 2015). Full anthology available on Amazon.

Melissa J. Lytton

Written by

Writer, spoken word performer, and graphic artist specializing in speculative fiction and feminist poetry. Free novel excerpts at

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