Fight like a Girl




The most ignorant myth perpetuated about childhood abuse is that all sufferers/survivors must have experienced some form of measurable or visible violence. If the story isn’t grafted on your physical skin, it is possibly untrue. That if your devastation hasn’t been continual and corporeal, it wasn’t exigent. That you MUST have always hated – & by that token, clearly understood – what was happening to you.

It is only partly accurate.

Violence doesn’t always possess immediately traceable dimensions. Its body can sometimes be too bloody, too mauled to render itself to a clear inspection. It is often a mutating equation not a clear, static remainder. There isn’t a measuring tape wide enough or a weighing scale large enough to determine its magnitude, its dire mass.

You don’t always quite understand, as a child, what is happening to you to attribute or attach any comprehensible set of feelings to it. This emotional amorphousness, this lack of grip, this utter incomprehensibility of how something bad is happening to you, but you are not so sure if it is routine to others or just you, is possibly the worst kind of undoing.

When I was 8 I kept hearing “he fights like a girl” at schoolyard scuffles and came to understand that it was something of an insult. Fighting like a girl meant you were weaker than the weakest of boys. Fighting like a girl meant that bigger, meaner boys could easily nail you to the ground and you didn’t have no escape route.  This message was bombarded at me in every public space I inhabited as a child. Fighting like a girl meant that your body’s meat lacked the sinew and strength of a “real” person.

So, in short, fighting like a girl meant you were handpicked for victimisation for as long as those larger, bigger, meaner ones decided and dealt the cards to your fate.

I had a cutting fever and my eyes felt like  burning  white orbs that would explode in a somatic riot of sorts. Nothing seemed clear; I was too small to fully understand that everything wasn’t a physical imbalance and that my mind was slowly shifting gears as well. I was living with my mother and Him and she was away at school.

I climbed out of the bed to fetch a glass of water, my heart’s thud louder than a temple bell as I paced through the distance between my room and the kitchen. I was mortified of running into Him. I was too ill to withstand what He’d put me through, and I was certain that if He found me out, I would be plunged head first into the lowest infernos of hell.

At the kitchen I fumbled with the filled-to-brim jug of water, my body convulsing in rapid waves of shivers and chills. I could barely hold the glass and sooner than I could think, it was almost as though the small glass vessel leapfrogged out of my hand and less than a second later shattered to a million little pieces on the marble floor.

His voice was the most reprobate aspect of him. I heard its belt-lash ugliness ricochet through the house. I try not to remember the rest of it but I think He, woken up by the noise, slapped me so hard I bit my tongue and little tears of blood sat on my lips like sullen, idiot children.

My small body was flung across the equally small kitchen and my fingers cinched into a tight knot across the handle of the cutlery drawer. I knew He’d hit me again. I was too ill perhaps but my mind had melted into glue because I, for once, refused to hide my eyes from His hideous gaze as He sneered like a rat whose tail had been stepped on.

I decided that if he’d hurt me further, He’d have to deal with my eyes gouging His soul out for every slap he wrecked upon me.

“Fight like a girl..”

Knives have an operatic air about them. There is no in-between, there is no uncertainty. No moment of indeterminate maybe. When you gut something, your hands are seized by the firmness of that damage. Their violence is personal, direct, shared with a macabre urgency.

Not that I consider what I did to Him as damage. It was a necessity. Long overdue.

I don’t remember what sort of knife it was, I do remember what I felt in my heart as it pared through the light material of his pyjamas to deposit half of its body inside his calf. I think the apt term for that feeling is satisfaction. I pulled it out. My rage was blind and hungry. I lunged at Him again. He whimpered in his cowardice. Gone was this pervasive terror that had hung in the air like ghosts of old relatives. I was burning up but my grip on the knife had only gotten stronger. He limped out of the small enclosure. I sat with a knife in one hand and the other still knotted around the handle of the locker.

He never told my mother. He never touched me again. I was sent to a boarding school the next year.

I took up kenjutsu – a Japanese martial arts of swordsmanship.

Lesson 1 : You are your own weapon. 



At the boarding school my karate instructor considered me fit for a regional tournament that usually only catered to boys. There were 6 events to compete in, eventually culminating into a formal fight for the championship. I was barred from the final fight because there were no girls competing at my level. Out of all the kids competing at the event there were two brown belts; a boy and me. It was comme il faut that the boy was the designated winner at our level and I was an “also ran”. This, without contest.

I asked to fight him, formally. They declined with a mirthful “that is so cute” in my face. The boy in question later told me he could crack me like a biscuit and it was “hilarious” to even imagine fighting a “stupid girl”. That girls should stick to silly slaps-n-scratches method of fighting. He then pulled at my belt.

A sudden, unforgiving bloodlust climbed out of its hidden coves and dangled above my eyes like a rabid monkey. The flesh around my wrist felt seared. I was curling and uncurling my fingers into stones and sticks.

He kept talking at me, with his finger in my face. The sun was setting against the blue garnet mountains and wisps of clouds were spread out like cotton candy. I closed my eyes for a minute and asked him to leave me alone. He refused and kept talking.

I gripped him by the insolent finger and delivered a sharp kick to his shins. His mouth twisted into a howl but it was soundless. I’d learned a few years ago that lower leg for men is a weak, unguarded area; that thing about men being unable to plant their feet firmly on the ground. He was at least 4 inches taller and 2 stones heavier than me. It didn’t matter. I had an iron grip on his knuckles, and I kept raining kicks. As he collapsed in a heap of pain, he tried scratching my face with his free hand.

“Girls are like cats – can only scratch and make annoying noises.”

My instructor later told me that two grownups had to pry his bruised-to-an- indecipherable-shade-of-purple hand from my grip.

Had I fought like a girl? Again?

Lesson 2 :  Your compass sits between your eyes. 



My bones were heavy with the day’s chores and tiredness has seeped into every pore. The drudgery of field studies in psychology had left me half awake, half asleep as I climbed the seemingly unending steps to my apartment. The elevator was out of order and a conflict between the building management staff and maintenance crew ensured that it stayed that way for days.

I think this is true for everyone : when you approach your home after a long day, your guards are down, your defenses suspended. You want a warm bath, a hot meal and want to nestle in the arms of an earnest sleep. When you are a student working 2 jobs and conducting field studies to earn your degree, this is truer than ever.

As I dragged my heavy feet, I feel as though the environment had suddenly been shaken on its head. It was late, almost midnight. The floor I was on remained mostly uninhabited save for flight attendant who was almost never at home. And then it happened.

A hirsute arm snaked around my neck and almost throttled me. The other hand fondled me violently. I lost my physical balance and then was being dragged down. In a fraction of a second I had been assaulted and nearly strangulated. All I remembered next is that an old couple living on the floor above was holding my hand as I tried to choke back my tears. It sunk in suddenly what had just occurred. I rudely shunned the kind lady’s hand and ran down 4 flights of stair like a woman possessed.

I will find him.

I didn’t. Ruckus ensues, condolences and criticisms were offered. Advice poured out like cheap liquor. “Don’t come home so late.” “Ask your parent to come down when you come home so late.”

I stayed silent. I need to find him. I asked the security guard umpteen questions; he remained unmoved in his statement that he saw no one exit the building.

How do you see “no one”?

I am the weird, socially-incompetent depressive so I must have hallucinated.

But I will find him.

Next day as I walk down the same flight of stairs, a young girl who works as house help in one of the many apartments tells me — ” Didi, I saw Flat no 304’s driver with the watchman last night around that time. Wohich hoyega. { It must be him }”

11:00 PM. I am waiting. I am told the said driver takes leave by this time. The watchman is sharing cigarettes and old songs on the radio with the next building’s watchman. The driver trundles out. He doesn’t see me till the iron rod spits a loud clang against his shoulder blades. I register a second blow and in my head I arrange the sound of his bones breaking into a delectable symphony. He lies on the floor like a gunny bag ripped open. I can hear doors opening and I know soon people will assemble here like a gang of bees on acid. I place my wrist around his neck and close my fingers around his hideous skin. I can feel his breath fluttering like a captured moth. Shut in. Shut out. I see fear in his eyes, his life struggling for the shore. I know he will admit to murder now if it is just to keep this wretched life of his.

I have taught him to fear. Just like all my life, they have been trying to teach me fear.

Lesson 3: You need the logic of snakes and rabbits. Mould yourself into the patience of an anaconda.

So, I fight like a girl.

I fight like a girl who is fully in agreement with all her monstrosities because god by god is unmade each time but it is my monsters who keep me alive. I fight like a girl who won’t bend or bow down or break or burn. I fight like a girl who has learned to cultivate her anger into an art and wield swords equal to half her own body weight with the niftiness of a ballerina. I fight like a girl who has been clawed at, bitten, knocked in and peeled off by a plethora of “Hes”; faces of whom she could not care to remember anymore. Possibly because she stuck her grapnels into their masks and stripped them off.

I fight like a girl who has learned to sire her faith like a phoenix that won’t stay down or buried for long. That will emerge unscathed from its own fire, this time, every time. I fight like a girl because I don’t fight by way of legacy or privilege earned by oppression that my gender or my skin colour imposes. I fight like a girl because I fight basis what I have earned of my own body and learned of my own experience.

I fight like a girl because I refuse to be spoken for, spoken to or spoken about without my permission.

I fight like a girl because I am Sekhmet, I will hunt your menage to every iota of my feline being if you try to teach me where I “belong”. I fight like a girl because I am Bellona and my scimitar is not a shy doll. I fight like a girl because I am Korrawi and I will curse you out till my tongue is salted, bloodied and raw.

So, rally around Lilith for she has spoken. Beware of my women who can tear your stomach open with their bare hands. Beware of my women who will make a garland of your lot’s skulls and dance upon your deities in flourished abandon.

Go learn of our names. We are Kali and Itzpapalotl. We are Tomyris and the Trung sisters. We are Lady Hangaku and Khutlun.

When we bring war, we bring our venom and nails.

Make no mistake about it. If you try to hurt me, I will bury you alive.

I am good for that.


Scherezade Siobhan is an Indo-Rroma Jungian social scientist, community catalyst, and hack scribbler. She is the author of a chapbook, Bone Tongue (Thought Catalog Books, 2015) , a full-length poetry collection, Father, Husband, (Salopress UK), poetry pamphlet,”to dhikr, i” (Pyramid Editions, forthcoming) & a second full length collection “The Bluest Kali” (Lithic Press, Forthcoming). She is the creator and curator of The Mira Project, a global dialogue on women’s mental health, gendered violence, and street harassment. She can be found squeeing about militant bunnies, here, or @ zaharaesque on twitter/fb/ig.

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