Essay: Dear 8th Grader

On the importance and power of being dangerous

Dear 8th Grader,

I am writing to you because I want to interrupt the patriarchy before it socializes you to become the white woman who interrupts the Black woman so that the white man can speak.

I looked you up to make sure, but I knew that you were a white girl when the moderator read your question at the end of the Vice Presidential debate between Senator Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence.

How did I know? 

Well, I knew you were a girl because patriarchy so successfully grooms girls to be polite, well-behaved, not make a scene or raise their voice, and not speak too much that when they grow up and a man disrespects them, they will keep thanking him - “Thank you, Mr. Vice President. Thank you, Mr. Vice President,” and never once dare to tell him to shut the fuck up, or else just stop talking. 

And there is most certainly a hierarchy of womanhood by which the white moderator can “slip” and call Senator Harris “Kamala Harris,” but never once “slip” and call the vice president “Mike Pence.” 

I have been waiting for you, 8th Grader. Ever since I wrote my second book The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls, I have been working on a curriculum with a girl like you in mind. I did not know of you when my book came out last year of course but I designed my curriculum on “Rage for Girls” because I want to find girls before patriarchal fuckery does.

Buy 7 Necessary Sins

I am writing to let you know that if you let your whiteness Trump your gender, Mike Pence will still disrespect you. White supremacist patriarchy, you will learn,  will throw you some crumbs and promise to protect you from patriarchy that is not white but you must know this: nothing will protect you from whichever patriarchy groomed you. Did you notice how Pence devoted most of his answer to a question on foreign policy to how the Trump regime avenged the rape and murder of Kayla Mueller, a white American woman by the violent brown men of ISIS? 


I do not believe that we can restore and expand the freedoms that our lives require unless and until we embrace the justice of our rage,” June Jordan


It summed up his foreign policy knowledge and the racist fearmongering of the Trump regime. Pay attention, 8th Grader. Pence was reading from the white supremacy script. As a white girl you will be offered “protection” that will pit you against Black men and men of colour. Understand that such “protection” is conditional on you being “good” and “polite.” Nothing will protect you from patriarchy. Refuse protection; demand freedom.

I knew you were a girl because no boy would say “When I watch the news all I see is citizen fighting against citizen ... Nothing is going to change until someone breaks this trend of arguments and anger.” I have to send you my curriculum! We are not going to change the world by politely asking it to stop being so unjust. My “Rage for Girls” curriculum will assign you lots of June Jordan, the Black bisexual poet, activist, and feminist. Listen:

“I do not believe that we can restore and expand the freedoms that our lives require unless and until we embrace the justice of our rage,” June Jordan wrote in a column in 1989 for the Progressive magazine.

I am writing to tell you that there is justice in rage. It is the fuel of the feminist revolution, 8th grader.


Patriarchy knows that your anger - should you accept it - will hold patriarchy accountable and that you will grow up to be a woman who will demand a reckoning.


Did you not see Mike Pence, whose religious zealotry was responsible for an HIV outbreak when he was governor of Indiana and who as head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force has the deaths of more than 200, 000 people in the U.S. of COVID19 on his hands, say with a straight face at the debate “Stop playing politics with people’s lives”? Only a white man can do that.

The rest of us have to fucking fight like hell. You were born with that raging fight inside you but the patriarchy has socialized it out of you and replaced it with acquiescence and a timidity that you will be taught are a privilege. Throw back that empty gift box. Better yet, tear it apart. Your anger is the real gift. Anger is the first step to putting patriarchy and its oppressions on notice that we are done waiting for it to self correct. We demand a reckoning.

In my curriculum on “Rage for Girls,” you will learn from the Black lesbian poet and feminist intellectual Audre Lorde that “Every women has a well-stocked arsenal of anger potentially useful against those oppressors, personal and institutional, which brought that anger into being. Focused with precision it can become a powerful source of energy serving progress and change.”

Patriarchy wants to deny you a necessary response to injustice when it tells you that your anger is wrong or out of place. Patriarchy knows that your anger - should you accept it - will hold patriarchy accountable and that you will grow up to be a woman who will demand a reckoning. Patriarchy prefers instead that you perform a self-reckoning, one in which you learn to turn anger not outwards where it belongs and can target injustice, but inwards. The result is that instead of using anger to destroy patriarchy and its injustices, anger will instead destroy you, with sadness and shame, self-hatred and trauma. Do not let sadness become your currency. Sadness does not terrify patriarchy, Anger does.


“Differing opinions” are about whether Emily in Paris is any good. (It’s shit, but that’s just my opinion). 


How did I know that you were white? In the year of the Black-led revolution against structural anti-Blackness and police brutality, the same year that the COVID19 pandemic has disproportionality killed Black people and almost all children killed by the pandemic have been Black or Latinx children your age or younger, no Black girl would “both sides” it by complaining “When I watch the news all I see is citizen fighting against citizen.” She would know why.

It is not a level-playing field, 8th Grader. Black girls know that. Starting when they are much younger than you - at the age of 5 - Black girls are perceived to be more adult-like and less innocent than white girls in school and other environments. This “adultification bias” plays a role in the increasing use of discipline against
Black girls in the classroom, by law enforcement, and in interactions with authority figures, even though they are no more likely to misbehave than white girls.

And only someone white would complain “Each citizen is accountable and each citizen has their agency to not allow our country to be divided by differing opinions.” It is not “differing opinions” that are the biggest injustice or challenge in the United States right now. “Differing opinions” are about whether Emily in Paris is any good. (It’s shit, but that’s just my opinion). 

It is white supremacy and the Trump regime’s increasing fascism, not “differing opinions,” that are dividing the United States. 


I am writing to you because I want you to know the importance and power of being dangerous when you ask the right questions; questions that challenge, not comfort oppressors. 


I really should be writing this letter to your mother instead. White women have the most privilege of expressing anger and are the last to express it, because they are sheltered from so much that ignites anger in the rest of us. Then, when white women finally find their anger, it is considered a revolution when in reality they are catching up to the revolution of rage that swept up the rest of us.

Tell your mother I said it is time - way beyond time - for white American women to recognize that no amount of acquiescence will protect them from patriarchy. 

I am writing to you because I want you to know the importance of telling a man to shut the fuck up. 

I am writing to you because I want you to know the importance and power of being dangerous when you ask the right questions; questions that challenge, not comfort oppressors. 

I am writing to you because I want you to know that “getting along” and “uniting” and “being civil” with white supremacist patriarchy makes you complicit in its crimes. We must never “get along” with fascists. We must never “unite” with white supremacists. We must always “argue” with patriarchy. 

I am writing to urge you to stop wanting to be liked, and demand instead to be free.

Polite and well-behaved girls do not terrify the patriarchy. We must terrify patriarchy. 

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Mona Eltahawy is a feminist author, commentator and disruptor of patriarchy. Her first book Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution (2105) targeted patriarchy in the Middle East and North Africa and her second The Seven Necessary Sins For Women and Girls (2019) took her disruption worldwide. Her commentary has appeared in media around the world and she makes video essays and writes a newsletter as FEMINIST GIANT.  

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