Buzzing Blogosphere: Vogue Empower’s video with Deepika Padukone

Compared to the scenario just a few years ago, there is a lot of debate around feminism today. It is unfortunate that this conversation was sparked by several stories of atrocities and injustice towards women. Recently, Vogue’s #MyChoice video directed by Homi Adajania and starring Deepika Padukone with several other women went viral, and everything from its content to its intent was dissected. In this week’s Buzzing Blogosphere, we take a look at the views of bloggers about this video, and the things that it has done for the cause of women empowerment.


The video went viral just hours after it was uploaded. Facebook news feeds and Twitter timelines were flooded with Deepika talking about how her soul cannot be shackled by cotton or silk. Then came the criticism of the video – it is elitist, it promotes immorality, it is chauvinist, it disparages men, and so on and so forth. Let’s see the flak that the video received.

Nishant Singh says, “The whole monologue revolves around choices of sex, clothes, staying out etc. totally skipping the most significant choices like that of getting equal education, job opportunities, financial independence and the power to support their families . Is it fair for a campaign that says women are empowered by their choices – to focus on choices that can seem so trivial in nature?

The continuing thread in the criticism was that the video did nothing to empower the average, working class woman who struggles every day to make her place in the world. As this open letter by Meera Sundararajan to the creators of this video says – “To love” or “To lust” are both luxuries for us. Most of us do not have the freedom to marry for love or indulge our lust. We are fighting more basic battles. And for those of us who marry ( for love or because of our families)the institution of marriage is a sacred one. To wear a bindi or a mangalsutra is not the issue. Fidelity in any relationship is a basic value that we carry with us and expect of our partners too.” and ends with an appeal – “My sincere request to you is to please stay away from making these kinds of shallow videos. They do more harm to us than good. Please look for some other way to promote your brand. After all you cater to less than 1 % of our female population.

Similarly, Sumi Thomas says, “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?

Bloggers also had an issue with the video making gender equality into an ‘us vs. them’ with men being shunted off to the opponents’ side instead of making them equal partners in the gender debate. Ashish Lal has this to say – “Feminism was about equality, when did it become about superiority? Can we teach building empathy for all irrespective of genders? Can we stop the extreme apathy towards men as a gender that is spread across humanity by some of the female chauvinists who pose as feminists but are nothing but pseudo feminists. It is also done by some of the men who spread such apathy for ‘other’ men, not themselves – they’re different you know!

To this argument, some bloggers retorted that since women are the primary victims of gender inequality, it is natural that women’s right to make a choice would be highlighted, without taking anything away from men. The blogger at Thinking Randomness says, “Guess who is still given a choice about their own life decisions and who is not? Guess who is forced more for a hundred zillion things to do and not to do? Oh for Heaven’s sake, guess whose “right” (not even choice) to be even born is taken away in unimaginable numbers. Of course it should be everyone’s choice. But this just happened to be a more “Give the woman also a choice” message. That is like saying why are all the “prevent rape” ads more women-centric. Indeed, they shouldn’t be. Boys get raped too. Don’t you think they deserve protection?

A section of people also were of the opinion that the video supports reckless behaviour in women under the guise of freedom; behaviour which if indulged in by a man would attract tons of brickbats. This blog lists down male counterparts of the lines uttered in the #MyChoice video, and then says, “Now, let’s talk about your choices. You talked of his mind being caged. Care to make a choice of removing some shackles from your brains too – that he needs to spend money when you go out, that he needs to save you when you are in trouble, that he needs to defend you when you are losing, that he needs to protect you all the time, that he needs to be the responsible one in the relationship, that he needs to be more conscious about finances and more and more and more?

The one thing that this video has done is raise questions about the exact definition of feminism. Is it about being equal to men or doing the same things that happen in a patriarchal society?
Desh Kapoor has this to say about the video’s idea of feminism – “Are you becoming a more aggressive man or are you enabling your feminism to blossom? If sexual dominance – “My Choice to have sex before marriage, outside of marriage” – is your idea of freedom, then you have not really gone beyond the archetype of the worst men to have walked the earth!
If feminist freedom has to happen, then why not establish your feminism as the basis of how the world should run.

There is also a bunch of bloggers who identify themselves as feminists, but think that women empowerment is not something that should be shouted from the rooftops, but a movement with much more seriousness. Soumya Prasad opines, “If feminists like these go on preaching about their choices then soon men will have no meaning in our lives. A woman needs a man as much as a man needs a woman. Be it for companionship, love, sex or anything else. A woman is not expected to be seated at home, pregnant in the kitchen. Nor is a woman expected to be put on a pedestal and worshiped. A woman should live the way she wants to, just like the way a man should. No questions asked.

In a sea of extreme opinions, there are some bloggers who have a more balanced view of things, people who agree with some parts of the video, but know that it leaves a lot to be desired. For example, Shiv Bhaskar Dravid feels that “To deny her the credit for what she has in fact achieved through this video, too, amounts to a kind of cynicism we should keep at bay. She may have said things that don’t ring a bell with the majority of Indian women. The right to choose sexual partners, the right to decide when to become sexually active and the right to celibacy, all may be a feminist jargon for most women who, in fact, are conditioned to deny themselves even the thought of such transgressions. But should women who do exercise these rights stop encouraging others to shun obsequiousness and take what is rightfully theirs? No! Let’s face it, you and I may proclaim premarital sex every woman’s choice, but we can never have the impact that a Deepika Padukone can.

Since the focus of the video is on #MyChoice, some bloggers chose not to just talk about the video’s content, but also give some alternative choices to people who found the choices that Deepika talked about unacceptable. This blogger writes about the choices that she hopes her hypothetical daughter makes, instead of the ones talked about in the video. Take a look at the blog post here.

In a country like ours where brushing women’s issues under the carpet was the national pastime till a while back, some bloggers are just glad that the video has opened up a much needed debate on women’s empowerment. Sanjukta says, “This just kills me. They do it every time there is someone popular making a point about feminism. Whether its a popular actor making a TV show or a telecom company creating a TV ad. These scholars expect an one minute video to address all nuances of feminism. They want an hour long episode to deliver the same level of knowledge that they gather over a lifetime of research and study. For life of me I don’t get this line of criticism.

Another school of thought says that in a country where choices for women – from what they wear to when and whom they marry are made my men around them, giving any kind of choice to ‘the fairer sex’ is a step in the right direction. Preeti Shenoy has this to say, “After a woman gets married, there is a sense of ‘ownership’ that creeps in—like she ‘belongs’ to her husband. And the husband has a say in what she chooses to wear, where she goes and the male friends she meets. You might argue that it is the same for a Indian married male. But it isn’t.
Nowhere does the video shame all men. It is merely asserting that a woman has a right to make choices. As much as a man does.

We don’t know what kind of a response the makers of this video were hoping for when they made the video. The responses might have include A LOT of criticism, but responses they did get. It got people talking, arguing, and giving their own ideas about feminism, which can never be a bad thing. One thing is pretty clear, that the debate over the ‘correct’ way to go out about making women’s empowerment a reality is far from over.


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