Tuesday, 31 March 2015

My Choice is, apparently, not in Vogue

Dear Deepika Padukone and the creators of the My Choice video,

Like any other mere mortal on social media, I, too, was flooded with links to the My Choice video. With so many friends sharing it, I did the irresponsible thing I usually do when it involves a favourite celebrity, brand or a good friend's judgement in deciding what to share: I 'liked' the post on Facebook before moving on to watching the video. Sadly, in this case, all three let me down.

So what is My Choice all about? Coming in the #VogueEmpower series, which has done splendid videos on domestic abuse and women's safety, I expected something pathbreaking, mind-blowing. Names like director Homi Adajania and Deepika Padukone meant I definitely had something to look forward to.

And then the film rolled: featuring a stunning Deepika and shot in stark black and white, the film had all the poetic metaphors that made a woman feel good about herself, about being infinite, about not being a caged soul, about roaming free, about wearing what I want, being the size I want... Woohoo... I am all for that!

And haven't I heard them a hundred times before? Are these really about women's empowerment? Are men not judged for what they wear, the work they do, the way their bodies look? Are men not criticised for who they want to marry? Or not? Or if they are gay or bisexual? These did not look like women's issues to me. These sounded a whole lot like gender issues, masquerading yet again as women's problems.

What troubles me is that these are the superficial problems. The choice (or not) of taking on a surname, working late, wearing the clothes one wants... these are the decisions an educated, privileged woman makes. What about the illiterate woman of little means? She may not be so bothered about working late at the homes of these very privileged women, if it means she can earn enough for her family. Her only decision about clothes may be to wear the ones that are least worn out. Do you think she is bothered about being a Size Zero? So who are you really empowering?

The reason I liked the Madhuri Dixit #VogueEmpower video is because it chose a distinctly upper class setting to show a disturbingly common problem. It conveyed the message that domestic abuse happens in every strata of society, not just in underprivileged homes. And it had a great message about sensitising our children, male and female. The Alia Bhatt video, again, could be projected to reflect the mindset and concern of girls, whether they are driving by themselves or taking a late night bus home.

I refuse to think that a woman's empowerment is all about wearing the clothes she wants to wear, being the size she wants to, coming home when she wants to, having extra-marital sex, no sex or whatever. Yes, these are definitely the concerns for a handful of women who are regularly featured in Vogue. But what about the rest of us women?

We want to get better at the work we do, get into leadership roles, make a whole lot of moolah and never worry about the time-money conundrum again, spend some great time with our families, make happy memories with our friends... and that's the middle class me talking. All my house help wants is job security, a little plot to call her own, and funding her children's education. These are just bare life needs I am discussing here. There's a whole lot of deeper societal issues like female infanticide, education (for all children), child marriage and more that need to be addressed in terms of women's issues.

Yes, society needs to change. And I am happy to see government and private initiatives in this regard. But making a remarkably beautiful video on the peripheral issues is just Vogue reaching out to its target audience. It's just a misplaced wish of mine, but I wish Deepika hadn't been a part of it. Now the message reaches out to so many people who are likely to be misled by her sheer aura. Don't get me wrong, I love the woman and think she is a damn fine and intelligent actor... which is why I wish she had put some thought into reading this script.

My 9-year-old and 3-year-old are both fans of this lovely lady and I do not want them hearing this message one day, and coming away with the idea that feminism is just about wearing what we like or living the way we like. What about our responsibility to society? Where does that figure? Why get into a marriage if you are looking for sex outside of it? Would you be okay if a man told you that? Gosh, that would be offensive! And what was that line ... 'don't be fooled if I am home by 6 pm'? I don't even want to start on all that's wrong with what that line implies...

Sex is definitely an important part of our life, but it does not (and must not) define every relationship we have or choice we make. And yes, I do hope my girls can choose to love who they wish to love, man or woman, but I definitely hope they will have the courage to end a relationship before they sleep with someone else. Casual sex is a choice women (and men) should be free to make, but it is not women's empowerment.

Let's not use feminism and women's empowerment as an excuse to stereotype men further and trample on them. Even if you believe patriarchy did that to us, 'an eye for an eye' hardly seems to be the appropriate revenge. I am all for change. But let that change be inclusive. Men are not the enemy. The enemy is a social mindset and lack of a level playing field for everyone. And we must work towards changing that. So let's cheer the man who gives up a career to stay home and look after the family's needs and the woman who conquers the world! And all of  us mere mortals in between!

3 comments:

Rohini said...

If you could see into my mind, you would see me giving you a standing ovation.

Sumi Thomas said...

Thanks, Rohini. :)

Partha said...

This video made feminism exposed. Those who believe feminism is still about equality learnt hard lessons from this video. It is nothing but true self of feminism. Here is my view on the video -

http://themalefactor.com/2015/03/30/in-response-to-deepika-padukones-video-my-choice/

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

My Choice is, apparently, not in Vogue

Dear Deepika Padukone and the creators of the My Choice video,

Like any other mere mortal on social media, I, too, was flooded with links to the My Choice video. With so many friends sharing it, I did the irresponsible thing I usually do when it involves a favourite celebrity, brand or a good friend's judgement in deciding what to share: I 'liked' the post on Facebook before moving on to watching the video. Sadly, in this case, all three let me down.

So what is My Choice all about? Coming in the #VogueEmpower series, which has done splendid videos on domestic abuse and women's safety, I expected something pathbreaking, mind-blowing. Names like director Homi Adajania and Deepika Padukone meant I definitely had something to look forward to.

And then the film rolled: featuring a stunning Deepika and shot in stark black and white, the film had all the poetic metaphors that made a woman feel good about herself, about being infinite, about not being a caged soul, about roaming free, about wearing what I want, being the size I want... Woohoo... I am all for that!

And haven't I heard them a hundred times before? Are these really about women's empowerment? Are men not judged for what they wear, the work they do, the way their bodies look? Are men not criticised for who they want to marry? Or not? Or if they are gay or bisexual? These did not look like women's issues to me. These sounded a whole lot like gender issues, masquerading yet again as women's problems.

What troubles me is that these are the superficial problems. The choice (or not) of taking on a surname, working late, wearing the clothes one wants... these are the decisions an educated, privileged woman makes. What about the illiterate woman of little means? She may not be so bothered about working late at the homes of these very privileged women, if it means she can earn enough for her family. Her only decision about clothes may be to wear the ones that are least worn out. Do you think she is bothered about being a Size Zero? So who are you really empowering?

The reason I liked the Madhuri Dixit #VogueEmpower video is because it chose a distinctly upper class setting to show a disturbingly common problem. It conveyed the message that domestic abuse happens in every strata of society, not just in underprivileged homes. And it had a great message about sensitising our children, male and female. The Alia Bhatt video, again, could be projected to reflect the mindset and concern of girls, whether they are driving by themselves or taking a late night bus home.

I refuse to think that a woman's empowerment is all about wearing the clothes she wants to wear, being the size she wants to, coming home when she wants to, having extra-marital sex, no sex or whatever. Yes, these are definitely the concerns for a handful of women who are regularly featured in Vogue. But what about the rest of us women?

We want to get better at the work we do, get into leadership roles, make a whole lot of moolah and never worry about the time-money conundrum again, spend some great time with our families, make happy memories with our friends... and that's the middle class me talking. All my house help wants is job security, a little plot to call her own, and funding her children's education. These are just bare life needs I am discussing here. There's a whole lot of deeper societal issues like female infanticide, education (for all children), child marriage and more that need to be addressed in terms of women's issues.

Yes, society needs to change. And I am happy to see government and private initiatives in this regard. But making a remarkably beautiful video on the peripheral issues is just Vogue reaching out to its target audience. It's just a misplaced wish of mine, but I wish Deepika hadn't been a part of it. Now the message reaches out to so many people who are likely to be misled by her sheer aura. Don't get me wrong, I love the woman and think she is a damn fine and intelligent actor... which is why I wish she had put some thought into reading this script.

My 9-year-old and 3-year-old are both fans of this lovely lady and I do not want them hearing this message one day, and coming away with the idea that feminism is just about wearing what we like or living the way we like. What about our responsibility to society? Where does that figure? Why get into a marriage if you are looking for sex outside of it? Would you be okay if a man told you that? Gosh, that would be offensive! And what was that line ... 'don't be fooled if I am home by 6 pm'? I don't even want to start on all that's wrong with what that line implies...

Sex is definitely an important part of our life, but it does not (and must not) define every relationship we have or choice we make. And yes, I do hope my girls can choose to love who they wish to love, man or woman, but I definitely hope they will have the courage to end a relationship before they sleep with someone else. Casual sex is a choice women (and men) should be free to make, but it is not women's empowerment.

Let's not use feminism and women's empowerment as an excuse to stereotype men further and trample on them. Even if you believe patriarchy did that to us, 'an eye for an eye' hardly seems to be the appropriate revenge. I am all for change. But let that change be inclusive. Men are not the enemy. The enemy is a social mindset and lack of a level playing field for everyone. And we must work towards changing that. So let's cheer the man who gives up a career to stay home and look after the family's needs and the woman who conquers the world! And all of  us mere mortals in between!

3 comments:

Rohini said...

If you could see into my mind, you would see me giving you a standing ovation.

Sumi Thomas said...

Thanks, Rohini. :)

Partha said...

This video made feminism exposed. Those who believe feminism is still about equality learnt hard lessons from this video. It is nothing but true self of feminism. Here is my view on the video -

http://themalefactor.com/2015/03/30/in-response-to-deepika-padukones-video-my-choice/