This Indian Woman's Poem On Body Hair Is Going Viral For The Most Powerful Reasons

On Tuesday, Delhi-based writer Naina Katarina posted a poem titled "When A Man Tells Me I’m Beautiful" on Facebook. In the three days since, the Indian woman’s poem about body hair and beauty standards has struck a powerful chord with readers all over the world, garnering 37,000 “likes” and nearly 9,000 shares. In the poem, Katarina criticizes arbitrary notions of beauty that demand that women manipulate their bodies in artificial, often painful, ways, and she highlights hypocritical beauty standards that insist upon one set of criteria for women and another for men. The poem is bold and unapologetic, and, unsurprisingly, it has many women cheering.

Kataria told BuzzFeed that her inspiration for the poem began with a trip to the movies:

I went out for a movie with a guy. We were watching this ad about 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.”

She said that his remark made her thing about how “unrealistic” and demanding the standards of female beauty are, and how unaware most men are of the work required to conform to those standards. “Women go through excruciating amounts of pain to look merely presentable,” she said. “And men don’t even have an idea of what it’s like.”

Here’s the full poem. (Be prepared to spontaneously yell “YAS QUEEN" at the end of it):

When a man tells meI’m beautifulI don’t believe him.Instead, I relive my days in high schoolWhen no matter how good I wasI was always the girl with a moustacheHe doesn’t know what it’s liketo grow up in your maternal familyWhere your body is the only one thatProudly boasts of your father’s XWhile your mother’s X sits back and pitiesIt’s unladylike-nessHe doesn’t know the teenagerWho filled her corners withEmpty consolations ofBeing loved for who she was- someday.He doesn’t know hypocrisy.He doesn’t know of the world thattells you to ‘be yourself’and sells you a fair and lovely shade cardin the same f*cking breathHe doesn’t know of the hot wax and the laserwhose only purpose is toreplace your innocent skinwith its own brand of womanhoodHe doesn’t know of the veet and the bleachThat uproot your robust hairin the name of hygieneHygiene, which when followed by menmakes them gay and unmanlyHe doesn’t know how unruly eyebrows are tamedand how uni brows die a silent deathAll to preserve beautyAnd of the torturous miracles that happenInside the doors marked"WOMEN ONLY"So when a man calls me beautifulI throw at him, a smile; a smile that remainedAfter everything the strip pulled awayAnd I dare himTo waitTill my hair grows back.

In a follow up post on Facebook, Kataria responded to the attention she has received since posting the poem.

I have been receiving loads of compliments for my fifteen seconds of fame and motivating as they are, they don't really matter to me, to be very honest. What matters more are the people came forward and shared their stories.

She explained that she hopes the poem will help other women feel less alone. “When I was writing this piece, I was just trying to let things out of my head so that if there was anybody anywhere who felt the same way, they would know that they're not alone in this, because I know what that feels like,” she wrote. “I never want anyone else to feel that way.”

Image: Candace Nast/Flickr