It’s the world’s worst-kept secret that it’s more expensive to be a woman in India, simply because there are a lot of grooming rituals we go through every month, sometimes every fortnight, to match the beauty standards of our society. Even then, we rarely do.
And Naina Kataria has had enough of it. The engineer-turned-freelance writer recently wrote an untitled poem about the same, which has gone viral in less than 24 hours.
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.
Naina told Vagabomb, “The idea of this poem sprang up when I went out for a movie with a guy. We were watching this ad on razors for women when I remarked that celebrities shouldn’t endorse such products because it sends out a message that one HAS to buy them to look beautiful. He replied by saying, “OMG, you’re too much of a feminist.” Which made me ponder over two things. One, the unrealistic standards that we’ve set for beauty. They keep saying that it’s optional, but I believe otherwise, because these norms are something that are just ingrained into us. If a girl, at the impressionable age of 13-14, seeing everyone, including her mom, her sister, her favorite celebrities (who usually are our role models), getting all these things done to look groomed, she is likely to do the same. She is likely to follow their footsteps and get these things done to match their definition of beauty.”
She added, “The second thing that hit me was how much we hide all these things from men. Women go through excruciating amounts of pain to look merely presentable, and men don’t even have an idea of what it’s like. So, when I thread my eyebrows and wax almost every part of my body raw, I ought to not believe a man who says that I’m beautiful, because he’s clearly not complimenting me, he’s complimenting all the torturous efforts that I have gone through to match an unsaid yet mandatory standard. I am pretty sure he wouldn’t appreciate me the same with bushy eyebrows and hairy legs, which is why his appreciation for my looks is a delusion.”
You can read more of Naina’s writing here.