This Poet’s Tearful ‘I’m Sorry’ Poem Shows Our Continuing Failure To Address Rape
“This apology is a symptom of a social disease seen from football rosters in Ohio to busses in New Delhi. With outbreaks of slut shaming and victim blaming mentalities and no cure in sight under this current system of patriarchy.”
As a survivor, this video was difficult to watch. I imagine it would be hard for anyone to watch a someone begin crying before they can even get through their first few words of poetry. But, this poem is particularly powerful because it not only exposes the language that is so often used to justify, perpetuate, and legitimate rape, it shows the systemic and cultural commitments to rape culture that permeate every level of society and government in the United States. And, the fact that this young womyn has to be the person saying “sorry” for all of it is disgusting.
This past June, “The ‘I’m Sorry’ Poem” was performed at the 2016 Southern Fried Poetry Slam Festival in Greensboro, North Carolina by an artist named FreeQuency (Mwende Katwiwa). She describes herself as a “25-year-old Black, Kenyan, Immigrant, Queer, Womyn poet in New Orleans, LA.”
In this poem, Katwiwa minces no words in describing the pervasiveness of rape culture in the lives of so many people. She explains (by providing verbatim examples) the ways that political actors have referred to rape as “legitimate,” described some women as easily rapeable, and even explained that women should just “relax and enjoy it” if they are sexually assaulted. To those comments, Katwiwa explains that “rape is not about sex, it is about power and privilege,” a power so often wielded against those who are most marginalized and exploited in this country’s white cisgender heterosexual patriarchal capitalist system.
If nothing else, this poem succinctly sums up our ongoing denial that rape is a very serious, too often occurring reality for s many of us. Katwiwa states frankly the ways that even courts, juries, and judges (through cases like that against Brock Turner) still find more fault with survivors than with rapists themselves.
We could all learn a thing or two from this performance.
Watch the performance below:
Photo: Youtube (Button poetry)