This is what it sounds like when a brown girl speaks her mind.
Aranya Johar is an 18-year-old Mumbai-based poet who performs in and curates open-mic events around her city in India. Earlier this year, Johar took to the stage at Tuning Fork, a comedy and music cafe in Mumbai, to speak about the double standards, misogyny, and sexual harassment that women face.
“The first boy who held my hand told me boys don’t want to hear about vaginas bleeding. Younger me could smell the misogyny,” she said in a video of the performance.
She then refers to the Nirbhaya case, a term used in India to talk about the December 2012 gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old student in Delhi that triggered mass protests and demands for change.
“Not just me, my mother sisters, friends all quicken their pace post 8:30 in the evening. My mom telling me to wear skirts out less often, Nirbhaya and more, left forgotten,” Johar said. “We don’t want to be another of India’s daughters, do we?”
“So I wear my jeans long and wear my tops high. Don’t show my cleavage or a hint of my thighs. Don’t want to be mistaken for wanting it.”
Johar’s performance, titled “A Brown Girl’s Guide To Gender,” has gone viral on social media, attracting more than 24 million views.
Johar told The Huffington Post that she was inspired to write the poem after reading and learning about Nirbhaya’s case, and hearing her own friends share their personal experiences.
“I started realizing that we’ve gotten very desensitized to these topics and also that that we have forgotten that these things aren’t normal,” she told HuffPost in an email. “So I took a mic to address some of the many issues that we face but unfortunately turn a blind eye to.”
Since the video went viral, Johar said she’s gotten some negative reactions from men who claimed she was exaggerating the extent to which women experience sexual assault. But she’s also heard from many men who have been supportive and asking about ways to help.
She hopes the poem will start conversations about sexual assault and the objectification of women.
“[I hope to] have women realize they don’t owe their husbands sex, have young girls talk about their sexual assaults, etc. Just speak, get people to talk about these things,” she wrote. “With men, [I hope that they] just ... acknowledge these things happen, maybe call their friends who catcall, or shut down rape jokes, and so on. Things as those little can cause a ripple effect to help us get what we need.”
Watch Johar’s performance above.
UPDATE: This post has been updated with comments from Aranya Johar.