What Women Deserve

Video and transcript of Sonya Renee Taylor performing her poem "What Women Deserve."

The work of Sonya Renee Taylor is timeless. I first met Sonya Renee when I was living in Maryland and organizing with Visions in Feminism (ViF), a collective of activists who wanted to create an accessible and affordable conference discussing issues of feminisms for folks who were often excluded in such dialogues. At the time Sonya was working at HIPS and beginning to transition into a full-time work as an artist. It was after this transition that I met her, as she was the keynote speaker for ViF 2005.

A few months ago I saw a video of her performing her work “What Women Deserve.” I immediately reached out to her asking for permission to share the video of her performance and the transcript of her poem. This poem can be found in her book A Little Truth On Your Shirt: A Collection of Poems published in 2010 by GirlChild Press. One of the reasons I’m sharing this poem and video is because it is an amazing piece of art that speaks to so much of what many of us value and are seeing continue in our society. It also speaks to women’s work and how art and poetry is a part of a movement and it is work as well!

I also share this because it is important to know that if there is artwork/images/media that we value, and wish to use/support and include in conferences, classrooms or organizations, the creators are approachable! There was a time early in my career where I thought people who I saw online, whose work I read, seemed so far away from where I was. It was not until I began to contact the people who create the media I value did I realize how approachable, close, and excited they are to have folks reach out to them. It has become part of my usual communication to reach out to artists and media makers and share my support and adoration of their work and it has resulted in amazing friendships and building of community. This communication has also resulted in their work becoming more widely known, selling more books, and exposing their work to more people, which they value very much!

I hope you enjoy this piece by Sonya as much as I do and can find ways to use it and her other poems in the work you are doing. There is some language in the video that may not be suitable for some work places. Transcript is after the video.

What Women Deserve by Sonya Renee Taylor

Culturally-diversified bi-racial girl,

with a small diamond nose-ring

and a pretty smile

poses beside the words: “Women deserve better”.

And I almost let her non-threatening grin begin to

infiltrate my psyche

till I read the unlikely small-print at the bottom of the ad. 
‘Sponsored by the US Secretariate for Pro Life Activities

and the Knights of Columbus’

on a bus, in a city with a population of 563,000.

Four teenage mothers on the bus with me.

One latino woman with three children under three,

and no signs of a daddy.

One sixteen year old black girl,

standing in twenty two degree weather

with only a sweater,

and a bookbag,

and a bassinet, with an infant that ain’t even four weeks yet

Tell me that yes: Women do deserve better.

Women deserve better

than public transportation rhetoric

from the same people who won’t give that teenage mother

a ride to the next transit.

Won’t let you talk to their kids about safer sex,

and never had to listen as the door slams

behind the man

who adamantly says “that SHIT ain’t his”

leaving her to wonder how she’ll raise this kid.

Women deserve better than the three hundred dollars

TANF and AFDC will provide that family of three.

Or the six dollar an hour job at KFC

with no benefits for her new baby-

or the college degree she’ll never see,

because you can’t have infants at the university.

Women deserve better

than lip-service paid for by politicians

who have no alternatives to abortion.

Though I’m sure right now

one of their seventeen year old daughters

is sitting in a clinic lobby, sobbing quietly

and anonymously,

praying parents don’t find out-

Or is waiting for mom to pick her up because

research shows that out-of-wedlock childbirth

don’t look good on political polls.

And Sarah ain’t having that.

Women deserve better

than backward governmental policies

that don’t want to pay for welfare for kids,

or healthcare for kids,

or childcare for kids.

Don’t want to pay living wages to working mothers.

Don’t want to make men who only want to be

last night’s lovers

responsible for the semen they lay.

Just like [they] don’t want to pay for shit,

but want to control the woman who’s having it.

Acting outraged at abortion,

when I’m outraged that they want us to believe

that they believe

“Women deserve better”.

The Vatican won’t prosecute pedophile priests,

but I decide I’m not ready for motherhood

and it’s condemnation for me.

These are the same people

who won’t support national condom distribution

to prevent teenage pregnancy—

But women deserve better.

Women deserve better

than back-alley surgeries

that leave our wombs barren and empty.

Deserve better than organizations bearing the name

of land-stealing, racist, rapists

funding million dollar campaigns on subway trains

with no money to give these women—

While balding, middle-aged white men

tell us what to do with our bodies,

while they wage wars and kill other people’s babies.

So maybe,

Women deserve better than propaganda and lies

to get into office.

Propaganda and lies

to get into panties,

to get out of court,

to get out of paying child-support.

Get the fuck out of our decisions

and give us back our VOICE.

Women do deserve better.

Women deserve choice.