What does it mean to be a girl?

Women Holding Signboards saying: "my body, my rules", "no sexism", and "I am more than a body".

Instead of directly talking about change through my poem, I’ve tried to explore what’s wrong with our (patriarchal) social culture, and then imply what needs to change in order to give us our rights back.  Through this, I’m trying to explore how the idea of change can both give power to women, as well as alter the way our history has shaped the way that our community looks at women's rights.


NOTE: Lowercase intentional.




What does it mean to be a girl?

i’ve been taught that it means being silent. 


i’m meant to be seen and not heard.


so call me icarus, because, when i try to stoop down to these views, 

the toxic salt of your outdated thoughts and institutionalised bias 

erodes my fragile wings.

the ones that i’d painstakingly crafted with golden feathers 

of hope and promises.

but your sun of modern feminism, with your expectations 

of the ideal woman,

the one that somehow juggles a stable career 

with taking care of the kids

and knowing exactly when the house-help will be coming tomorrow 

and being a perfect, pretty picture while doing all of it.

your sun scorches me too. 


just let me be! 

but I already know that you won’t. 


not when marital rape is still legal in our country, 

because our leaders say that once married, 

a womans perpetual consent is implied.


not when you say that she should have fought back against 

her abusers 

and her silencers 

and her murderers, 

because, believe me, she tried.


not when our streets are still unsafe for women to walk alone at night,

and “go back and change into something more modest” 

is the all-time-favourite dialogue at family outings. 

or any outings, really.


not when 1 in 3 Indian women are victims 

of sexual, emotional or domestic violence

and 1 in 3 women have been raped worldwide.


not when that could’ve been me.


you expect our hips to be wider than our pay gap, 

but our waists narrower than your mindset.

you expect us to sweep 

the violence. 

the honour killings.

the harassment.

the misogyny.

all under the carpet;

along with the dirt that you make the wives of your home clean up 

while the husbands throw back a beer and watch the game on TV,

propping their feet up on the table as a threat.


from forcing women to wear corsets 

to making the use of Instagram filters a norm, 

we’ve long sculpted their own bodies 

into the prime bone of contention for women throughout history.

back when sati was tradition and oppression was heritage, 

we were silenced then. 

and we’re still silenced now, our dowry being both a bribe 

and a reward for our in-laws, 

doing such a kind deed, forcefully wedding the likes of us 

to their amazing sons.  


so don’t tell me where I belong, because I already know.

i belong in a classroom.  

or a conference room.  

or a courtroom.  

or wherever else I want to be, and you cannot tell me otherwise 

just because you think that I am nothing more than a sum of my body parts.

and if i want to be in a kitchen,

or spend all my time in the make-up room,

or be a housewife or a stay-at-home mom, then i should be able to.

because feminism means that i can choose what i want to do.

no strings attached.


equality shouldn’t feel like a privilege, 

it shouldn’t be up for debate, 

it shouldn’t come with a price tag,

or with a terms and conditions asterisk attached. 


you say that we women cannot shut up 

when the truth is that you won’t let us speak up.

whose rights are you protecting, the men hurting or the women being hurt?  

answering that question is what it means to be 

a girl.

a woman.

a mother.

a sister.

a daughter.

in this world.