From the last few days, there has been a video doing the rounds on the Internet and going hopelessly viral. If you have not watched the video already you may do so here and then proceed with this post.
This video talks about choice; more precisely, a woman’s choice. And nothing is really wrong with the choice of topic. The video directed by Homi Adajania stars ninety nine women along with Hindi film actress Deepika Padukone as the face of the video (also inclusive of hairstylist Adhuna Akhtar, actress Nimrat Kaur, deaigner Anaita Shroff Adajania, director Zoya Akhtar and film critic Anupama Chopra in glimpses) and these strong women express the essence of independence exercised by their very gender on the behalf of the women of this country. They voice the opinions of thousands of women who are compelled to live the life they presently live, the women who compromise every step of their choices and ambitions for their unsupportive families, the women who are forced to abandon all their dreams and not live for themselves even remotely. Given the present situation of women in India (rape cases every single day, eve teasing, molestation et cetera), the theme of the video showcases the action that a woman will not hesitate to take no more. And nothing is wrong with that as well. Yet, following are some points that I would point out as markers of the irrationality showcased by the video . I, as a matter of fact, am not impressed.
1. Sexual activities.
The video has blatantly highlighted the idea of sex and its relation to a woman’s choice.
“To marry or not to marry. To have sex before marriage, to have sex outside of marriage or not to have sex.”
I am in complete agreement with the aforementioned quote by Deepika Padukone, but only partially. To marry or not to marry is a personal choice, yes. To indulge into sexual activities before marriage, again, is a personal choice; also, to have sex at all or not is also a legitimate personal choice. Check. To have sex outside of marriage? In a largely monogamous Indian society (read: no offense to polygamous families, only stating facts) a video on women empowerment practically promotes infidelity, in all openness. Although it could be a different story altogether if your spouse is in agreement with this aspect of your ‘choice’, the Indian psyche does not usually accept such choices. Thus, this particular ‘choice’ was better put off than included in a video that apparently empowers women. A subjective message to all the young women who probably follow Deepika’s everything; even if she is acting it out. Rationally speaking, unless your partner supports you indulging into sexual activities with another man, we look for loyalty. Indians, stereotypically do. Most monogamous humans seek it. Take that.
2. Superiority Complex, much?
“My choice, to love a man, or a woman, or both. Remember, you are my choice. I am not your privilege.”
Acceptance of sexuality, regardless of the gender – is probably the most sensible issue promoted well with the theme of ‘choice’ in this video. The latter half?
In all exclusivity, this video was shot to promote and establish women empowerment; not superiority. Women > Men = Women Empowerment? Breach of modern feminism!
You do not put anyone down to empower yourself. I cannot say that you exist in my life because it is my choice to continue my social life inclusive of you; whatever happened to the essence of relationships?
3. Your size is not the concern.
It indeed is true that beauty and existence has no size; in this video it precisely means the same thing, giving hope to women on the heavier side that it is okay to not have a flat stomach, that it is okay to not have toned bodies; I do not possess the aforementioned ‘qualities’ myself, but I am healthy. Perhaps, it could have been highlighted that obesity shouldn’t be making anyone happy?
Majorly, Deepika talks about how size doesn’t matter. No, I am certainly not trying to say that “Gah. She has a great body and SHE is saying that?” She certainly is a fit woman, being a sportsperson and everything; my point here is that Deepika Padukone stars in an advertisement that promotes Kellog’s Special K which helps you achieve a ‘perfect waist’ in just two weeks. It probably is a good solution for people trying to get fit by losing necessary weight; but such contrast in promotion, Padukone? One needs to decide what they stand for when millions of young people are following everything you do.
4. Elitist outlook.
Unhooked brassiere and the freedom to wear what a woman wants is not exclusive to the urbane woman. There was no consideration of women from where majority of India comes from – the rural areas. A rural woman may not even embrace the idea of Western clothing (which is her choice, indeed), her social status and stand were not highlighted in the slightest; how is it possible to empower Indian women in general if only the lifestyles of urban women are promoted? Certainly an elitist outlook meant for the woman of the city, and that is my opinion of what I observed.
A glimpse or two of the actual ‘common’ woman in the video did not justify much of her problems, rather having sex or not was put up as a choice to be made, clothes were spoken of as statuses.
5. Modern feminism = Equality.
Several points in this video establish ‘choices’ that seem unsettling. Especially, the one that elaborates upon how it is a woman’s choice to have sex outside of marriage.
Imagine a similar video made by the many men of our country. Men from the cities, targeting fellow elites. And why not? Are not men being victims of domestic violence? Are not men being victims of fake and illegitimate rape cases? Are not men being victims of social injustices in matriarchal societies? The immeasurable amount of outrage that would have been encountered throughout the nation would have been unimaginable and I believe that my rational Indian readers will know that. But then again, what about feminism? Does not the modern interpretation emphasize on feminism being a movement to achieve gender equality? It would have been completely alright of men to have made a short film on the lines of the Vogue Empower campaign, then.
Also, if the spirit of a woman can never be brought down; then why is the video being narrated by a talented actress who sounds like the advocate of millions of oppressed women? The reality is not reflected appropriately, and again – that is my opinion.
The essence of this video is very overwhelming because we all understand the point behind this video, even with its flaws. As a matter of fact, I had the opportunity to attend the TEDx talk held in my college and Priya Tanna, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue India and the mastermind behind the Vogue Empower campaign spoke of this very campaign in detail. Tanna, the youngest ever editor in the history of Vogue, elaborated upon how women empowerment must be held as an important issue in India.
She also spoke of her ties with domestic and international celebrities who are supporting the seed of her idea and funding monetarily. Thus, I have two very different perspectives of the same campaign – the outlook provided by the Editor-in-Chief of Vogue India herself and the short film video by Homi Adjania.
Like Deepika Padukone’s promotional choices, the promotion of this campaign with a very sensitive theme of women empowerment, is conflicting.