Janna Willoughby-Lohr

As a Woman with a Body

As a woman having a body,
there are all these ways to be judged,
if you don't
look right    act right
talk nice    be ladylike.
You better keep your hairs in place
and your face made up,
your teeth so white,
your smile tight, 
your razor sharp just beside your perfume.
Keep your figure trim and your trim figured. 
You better be beautiful
because it's always your fault.

As a woman having a body,
I suck in my gut in public, worried,
            just a little
that someone will see me, think I'm fat.
They'll use that
and they'll judge me, make me feel
I’m too little or too much.
A lot of this judgment comes
from other women.
But we
don't think
about that
too much. 

As a woman having a body
out in public, I also worry
        just a little
that a man will feel the need
to press his will
upon my body,
he'll think I'm luscious,
wanna fuck me, say,
       Baby, you should smile more.
I'll be forced to fake it with my lips,
nod politely, keep it moving
lest rejection make him violent,
take it out
upon my body. 

So much judgment
that we pass
onto ourselves as though we're strangers.
       Suck in that gut, stick out those tits,
       tuck in that chin, duck out those lips.
       Highlight that hair and line your eyes.

It's all your fault, you realize... 
That as a woman
I've allowed the public to decide
that having a body
is worth the shame of
never being able to hide.
To give it up to passersby,
You're hot or not, girl. Don't be shy.

As a woman having a body,
a public body, held in judgment,
I cease to be a separate being,
instead a plaything, dressing
to feel pretty
        it’s for myself  
it's assumed that it's for others,
and it's my fault if I am raped,
my skirt
     is asking
my breasts
    are asking
my female body asking
to be used
just for existing.

As a woman having a body
that's built a baby, 
I'm now considered
My tits are large
but not
the right kind of large.
My hips
aren't smooth,
my belly is striped.
And my role of beautiful is over
and that too is my fault.
I gained
too much weight,
didn't lose it fast enough,
didn't wear a bra to bed,
I’ve nursed my baby for too long.
I wouldn't
cover up my dark circles,
couldn't hide
my acne marks
and the world has so much judgment
on a woman's body parts. 

And so I nurse my baby, out in public,
because he’s hungry
because I’m full
and the comments come
         You’re doing that here?
                  What if children see?
         Can’t you just pump and bring a bottle?
                  What if someone’s husband sees?
         Your baby is too old for that. 
                  I would never.
         What is wrong with her?
                  That’s disgusting.
         You’re disgusting.

So worried that a child will see
what breasts were really made for.
That a husband would see
and would have to think sex.
That somehow I’m making them
uncomfortable on purpose.
It’s my fault again.

But I nurse my baby in public,
aware of the stares,
aware of the talk,
because the more a woman is seen
as something other than for sex
the more women are seen
as separate beings.

I nurse in public with my body
because it’s mine.
Because it’s mine.

Janna Willoughby-Lohr was a member of the Nickel City Poetry Slam team from 2005-2008 and was part of the first team from Buffalo to ever compete in the National Poetry Slam in Austin, TX. Janna has been an editor and layout artist/designer for Earth's Daughters literary magazine since 2007. She is also a teaching artist through Just Buffalo Literary Center and the Western New York Book Arts Center. Janna also spent many years as the "Poetry Czarina" for the Buffalo Infringement Festival and has been a core volunteer since its inception in 2004. She performs regularly with her band, BloodThirsty Vegans, a lively mix of hip hop, ska, funk and reggae. She runs her own business, Papercraft Miracles and is a self-proclaimed WAHM (work-at-home-mom) to her two young sons.  In her free time (haha) she likes to do yoga and cook tasty food.