WORDS: PRISCA DORCAS
I get a lot of emails of people asking me for tips on how to get into writing and to read their work for them. I think the best advice I have for anyone who wants to write is: know your audience.
This year I wanted to name that person, in case it had not been made clear, who my audience is. This year I named that girl, along with all her intricacies.
I write for the girl who grew up with strict religious parents. I write for the girl whose sexual liberation has been long overdue because of said strict parents. I write for the girl who needed to find her voice, among the many that infiltrated her mind whilst growing up, be it God, her pastor, the church congregation, her mami, and her papi. I write for the girl who was constantly called into a church office to be reprimanded for showing her knees, shoulders, or lower back. I write for the girls who have had a toallita placed over their laps because their dress was hiking up too high and therefore PROVOKING the men. I write for the girl who was made to feel like it was her duty to keep men from following her home, catcalling her, and hitting on her. I write for the girls who are made to believe that rape only happens to women who are careless.
I write for the girl who was made to feel, at some point or another, like her brown skin was ugly. I write for the girl who tried to get blonde highlights, but her strict mami said no because her body did not belong to her until she was older. I write for the girl who wore colored contacts because she was trying to look less like herself and more like those girls in the magazines she wasn’t supposed to have. I write for the girl who bleached her black arm hair blonde, only to realize how painful it was because it inadvertently bleached her skin too. I write for the girls who were teased in school for looking indigenous, for the girls who were called indias as an insult, for the girls who tried to hide all those things that made them beautiful.
I write for the girls whose papi’s treated them like muñecas, only to find out that papi also wanted them to be quiet and docile like a doll. I write for those girls who were discouraged from having opinions, who were discouraged from reading too much because men do not like smart women. I write for the girls who have had to fight hard in this world to be heard because they knew in a very real way that even the one man who was supposed to love them did not love all parts of them. I write for the girls who have a strained relationship with their papis because their papis never learned to see women as equals.
I write for the girls who were sheltered. I write for the girl whose mami tried so hard to protect her from the thing that happened to her, to protect her from the world that is cruel, that she made her defenseless against them. I write for the girl who cried when she saw her first penis because she did not know what it was because when your mami tries to protect you by avoiding to teach you important things, you enter the world without any armaments. I write for the girl whose life lessons have been taught by strangers, not by their mamis because their mami just knew how to keep you away from bad things but she never planned on your departure into that big scary world.
I write for the girls who have a little sister still living in these structures, who refuses to run away without naming all of these oppressive systems that keep so many girls like me down. I write for the girls who cannot leave that life behind because too many other girls are still living within these confined systems. I write so that they can see themselves reflected. I know who my audience is, and as a writer, I need to keep reminding myself about why I do what I do and why it matters to keep writing. Here’s to these reminders, in 2017. Here’s to you naming your audience and, keeping that audience in mind as you embark on this journey of embracing becoming a writer.