young indian feminist writes epic poem after being shamed for her body hair
Writer Naina Kataria explains the torture of hair removal to men, including the date who called her "too feminist."
On Tuesday, 22-year-old Delhi-based writer and poet Naina Kataria published a poem to her blog and her Facebook page that resonated with thousands of women from all over the world. About 37,000 people have reacted thus far to Kataria's bemoaning of the pressures that "women only" succumb to in order to preserve an image of beauty — particularly, of hairlessness. Kataria begins her poem, "When a man tells me I'm beautiful..." and proceeds to break down why her perceived beauty is so hypocritical to her. Compliments from men only make her more aware of the double standard that she was held to in high school, when she had a moustache and was shamed for having body hair where women supposedly shouldn't have any. Kataria drives the point even further, noting that while society tells girls to be themselves, it simultaneously sells us the opposite notion.
Kataria says that the idea for the poem came from a movie date that she went on where she pointed out to the guy that an ad for razors shouldn't be celebrity-endorsed because it tells women that they need to buy razors (and therefore, be hairless) in order to be beautiful. When the guy called her out for being "too much of a feminist," Kataria realised that beauty standards and their corresponding products are marketed as optional, but they really are not because they are so ingrained in us. She also revelled in how little men saw, knew, or understood about the trouble and pain women endure in order "to look merely presentable."
The imagery Kataria's poem provokes of hot wax and lasers and doors marked "women only" might be jarring for men who have never considered such extreme measures for hair removal. She manages to paint a larger picture of the accepted gender divide through descriptions of the little things women do every day to provide men a certain image of themselves. What is so poignant about the poem is that Kataria evokes the idea of something being pulled away from women when they put their bodies through these torturous processes, all that is left being a smile for a complimenting man. She then dares him to wait until her hair grows back, which he realistically may never experience because women will always shave and wax it off for him — both a strange and sad thought.
When a man tells me
I don't believe him.
Instead, I relive my days in high school
When no matter how good I was
I was always the girl with a moustache
He doesn't know what it's like
to grow up in your maternal family
Where your body is the only one that
Proudly boasts of your father's X
While your mother's X sits back and pities
He doesn't know the teenager
Who filled her corners with
Empty consolations of
Being loved for who she was- someday.
He doesn't know hypocrisy.
He doesn't know of the world that
tells you to 'be yourself'
and sells you a fair and lovely shade card
in the same fucking breath
He doesn't know of the hot wax and the laser
whose only purpose is to
replace your innocent skin
with its own brand of womanhood
He doesn't know of the veet and the bleach
That uproot your robust hair
in the name of hygiene
Hygiene, which when followed by men
makes them gay and unmanly
He doesn't know how unruly eyebrows are tamed
and how uni brows die a silent death
All to preserve beauty
And of the torturous miracles that happen
Inside the doors marked
So when a man calls me beautiful
I throw at him, a smile; a smile that remained
After everything the strip pulled away
And I dare him
Till my hair grows back.
Text Blair Cannon
Image via Facebook