Over 90,000 people on Facebook have reacted to a spoken word poem by 18-year-old Aranya Johar, and it's easy to see why: The piece perfectly sums up the many ways girls internalize the message that they're inferior as they grow up.
Johar performed the poem at an International Women's Day event by UnErase Poetry. It starts with an evocative story: "The first boy who held my hand told me boys don't want to hear about vaginas bleeding." Then, Johar ties this experience together with a larger pattern of viewing women as mere sexual objects. "Younger me could smell the misogyny: vaginas only meant to be fucked, breasts only meant to be sucked, mouths only meant to blow," she says. "My waist meant to be compared to an hourglass, my voice only meant to quiver 'please, fast.'"
Johar is from Mumbai, India, but women in many parts of the world can relate to the problems she talks about — both the microaggressions and the macro acts of violence. She recounts being warned by her mother not to wear skirts, lest she attract unwanted attention (or worse). "Don't want to be mistaken for wanting it," she says. "Because if I wear less, I'm more than just flaunting it. I'm risking it. Risking not my virginity but my life."
This portion was inspired by a conversation with her friends about sexual abuse. Another part of the poem is about Laxmi Agarwal, who was the victim of an acid attack by a man she rejected and became an activist to fight this form of gender-based violence. She was also thinking about a woman known as Nirbhaya who died after being gang-raped and beaten in 2012.
"They were both so unfortunate and yet so real," she told Buzzfeed. "It could happen to anyone." Indeed, all the Facebook comments on her poem prove that, unfortunately, the experience of sexism ties women from all around the world together.
Watch the touching and sadly relatable performance below.
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