The Problem

Madelyn Hotaling

I’m angry that my friend can run at night
alone
listening to music
I’m angry that I’m afraid to run alone at all
even in the middle of the afternoon
because I am the problem here
 
I’m angry that I get catcalled in the hallways of my school
the quote-unquote “safe space”
where I can’t even show my shoulders
I’m angry that those catcallers never get in trouble
but I could get stopped for rips in my jeans
because I am the problem here
 
I’m angry that I was taught at seven
to check under a car
before you get in
I’m angry that I check under my car every time
just in case
because I am the problem here
 
I’m angry that I have to “watch what I’m wearing”
at the gym
at school
at the store
anywhere
because I am the problem here
 
I’m angry that I feel uncomfortable when boys walk behind me
it’s not their fault
but society has taught me that they are the threat
and that I am the problem here
 
I’m angry that my friend was horrified
when he learned
that I am afraid to walk alone at night
that I am afraid to walk up stairs
that I place my keys in between my knuckles
because he was not ever told
that he was the problem here
 
I’m angry that I feel this way about myself
I am perfect
but society has taught me not to see that
because I am the problem here
 
I’m angry that my math teacher told me
at eleven years old
that it was okay to have a B in math because
“I was a girl”
even though he rounded 89s up for my male classmates
because I am the problem here
 
I’m angry that my engineering teacher told me
at fourteen years old
that he would
“make sure none of the guys gave me a hard time”
because it had happened before
because some girl before me was harassed
because we are the problem here
 
I’m angry that my English teacher told me
at fifteen years old
that “men were more discriminated against”
and that girls would not understand
the ins and outs of a handshake
whilst reading catcher in the rye
because females should not shake the hands of others
because we are the problem here
 
I’m angry that my English teacher made us read
just last week
an article that used the phrase
“allow your spouse”
as if someone must give me permission
because I am the problem here
 
I’m angry at the world
for putting us against each other
for blaming the victim
for making innocent people seem threatening
for giving us fear
and for teaching me that I am the problem here
because we are clearly not the problem here

 

Madelyn Hotaling is 16 years old and attends Lakewood Ranch High School. Her poem “The Problem” won third place in the 2022 Manatee Libraries and 805 Teen Poetry Contest.