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Empowering? Not a bit

Empowering? Not a bit
Highlights

The 2-minute-35-second video featuring Deepika Padukone called My Choice was viewed by around four lakh netizens and created a lot of debate. The fact that it is a part of the My Choice series by Vogue Empower attributes the claim of women’s empowerment to it and therefore the close scrutiny it inevitably attracted to itself.

Without really recognising the cultures of defining inheritance and bloodlines that drive our social mores, how will MyChoice empower women?

The 2-minute-35-second video featuring Deepika Padukone called My Choice was viewed by around four lakh netizens and created a lot of debate. The fact that it is a part of the My Choice series by Vogue Empower attributes the claim of women’s empowerment to it and therefore the close scrutiny it inevitably attracted to itself.

While some women appreciated the video, many like Shobha De felt it was a pointless effort. Meanwhile, social media decided to attack Deepika personally for what she was endorsing through the video. The video begins by invoking the autonomy of woman’s body and mind. But what follows is the use of the mind to declare the various forms of bodily autonomy and freedoms an empowered woman can exercise.

One of the freedoms that the video flags is the freedom to have sex within or outside marriage. This particular declaration in the film came in for all-round criticism, both from women and men. A spoof on the video soon surfaced, giving the male point of view, providing the much-needed comic relief.

The video was criticised for its choice of women’s possible choices it highlighted. Is sexuality and its attendant issues like beauty, relationships the essence of being female in India? Is it surprising at all that Vogue magazine, that icon of fashion journalism of the liberal capitalist world, actually came up with this form of empowerment?

The second wave feminism that emerged in the West began to emphasise women’s identity and sexual freedom even as it was slowly co-opted and exploited by the market logic of the neoliberal economies. The market logic does not respect human values and the value of building community solidarities. It thrives on simplistic polarised debates that provide grist to the media mills and perpetuates differences instead of strengthening social bonds.

Is the solution to the lack of choices for women in simplistic assertions articulated through slick messages of rebellion packaged by the advertising gurus? Without really recognising the cultures of defining inheritance and bloodlines that drive our social mores, how will MyChoice empower women? One hopes this dumbing down of empowerment of women in India does not have the same impact bra-burning had on the second-wave feminism.

Anyone who has heard Subrahmanian Swamy’s debates with Kavita Krishnan and what he has to say about free sex and feminists as a quick weapon to destroy all arguments for women’s empowerment knows the success with which such attacks are deployed. In that sense, this video is more disempowering than empowering. Just this week, reams of statistics were all over the net about unequal pay for women in entertainment and media industries after an Oscar winner raised the issue. Where and how does a woman exercise choice in such issues? Or are we to just navel gaze and concentrate on our bodies?

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