They’ve done it again!
They’ve convinced you that they have honest intentions, earned some credibility, and sold what they wanted to sell. And you’ve bought it. And buying and selling is what we really should be talking about here!
“My Choice”, says Deepika Padukone. But whose choices are we really talking about? This less than 3 minute video that Miss Padukone appears in was scripted by a Bollywood scriptwriter, Kersi Khambatta and directed by Homi Adajania, for Vogue India.
a) Let’s not delude ourselves by saying that these are Miss Padukone’s words or choices. That’s a factual error. This video is like any other film – with or without a social message – that she deems fit to work in. She’s an actor. And somebody else writes her scripts.
b) The video is for Vogue and I cannot emphasize enough on the irony of this production. Vogue, for those of you who may not know, is a fashion and lifestyle magazine – something that has come under the scanner for air brushing images of reed thin models to make them look thinner; for photoshopping images of sufficiently white models to make them look whiter; for being racist, sexist and socially irresponsible on occasions more than one. How could you miss it? Can you think of any cover of any issue of Vogue that hasn’t featured a perfectly polished, shaved, toned epitome of “beauty”?
And such a magazine is now going to tell us about body shapes, sizes, feminism and a woman’s right to choice? Really?
It’s not the production team of this video that I’m against. They’ve always unabashedly catered to the select-elect class of the society. I’m amazed at how we got entirely smitten by this pseudo attempt at doing something noble. Vogue is a profit-making business organization, and every act, even those that come under the banner of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), is committed with one motive – generating business. And they have done brilliant business once again!
Now, if I were to believe, for the sake of argument, that the words that Miss Padukone croons in the video are not hollow and are indeed heartfelt, then a fresh set of questions arise. Let us do a brief background check on the actor in question. She has in the past, without any hesitation, endorsed products like Kellogg’s Special K, Neutrogena Fine Fairness Cream and Garnier Fair Miracle 2-in-1 Fairness Cream (products that help you reduce weight or turn gloriously white, because being fat and ‘unfair’ is not beautiful, silly). Doesn’t she then sound a little hypocritical when she wants us to believe that she really feels strongly about women’s emancipation? Not to forget the cover of Vogue-India’s June-2012 edition; the transcript beneath the picture said – “Deepika Padukone [talks] on how to get the best body in Bollywood.” In the video script, Khambatta uses the phrase “don’t be fooled”, and Miss Padukone delivers the line with immense conviction. We do need to pay heed to those three words – Don’t be fooled!
So, what’s the video all about? “My Choices”. Who am I? A woman. What sort of choices? I can choose to sleep with who I want (even if that amounts to adultery), eat what I want, go where I want, do what I want. Who does the video address? “You”. Who are you? Presumably, a man. The equation is linear. The video talks Feminism. What’s Feminism? I shall refrain from defining it and quote people more erudite instead – “Feminism is a global, political movement for the liberation of women and society, based on equality for all people”, writes Finn Mackay in an article for The Guardian. “Although I use the word equality … feminism is about so much more than that”, he adds. “If feminism were solely about women’s equality with men, then that would wrongly suggest that the world is just fine as it is; that all men are doing great (which they aren’t) and that all women need to do is to get where men are.” What Mackay suggests in his article later requires further deliberation – What are the threats to Feminism in today’s world? Mackay’s reply is prompt – “the obvious threats … today are the same as they have always been, the main ones being the existence of patriarchy … However, there are more insidious and less obvious threats … in the form of a version of feminism known as ‘choice feminism’ … Choice feminism can be found particularly in media representations of what feminism is and what women’s empowerment might look like. There is an attempt … to reduce feminism to simply being the right for women to make choices. Not choices whether to stand for parliament, or instigate pay transparency in the office or lead an unemployed workers’ union … Instead these are choices about what amount of makeup to wear, whether to go ‘natural’ or try mascara … or other such modern and edgy decisions of the sort which face the feisty, sassy … liberated woman of today.” Did you realise what Mackay did there? Yes, he gave us a concrete picture of exactly how ridiculous this video is at so many levels.
Have you indeed watched it carefully, gentle folks? There’s no attempt at showcasing the variety, in the true sense, of women’s bodies. The women who feature in the video are impeccably groomed. They are spectacularly tattooed, bejewelled, waxed, expensively dressed, urban, “modern” women; women with privilege and affluence. Now, that’s not a bad thing. I’m not principally against people who’re financially secure. However, I have reservations against people who pretend to spearhead radical movements, without ever fully leaving their comfort-zone. The people involved in making this video are guilty of the same thing that the early Anglo-white-heteronormative-bourgeois Feminists were guilty of – they’re exclusive; they cannot fathom the real depth of this world or conceive of the plight of people who’re far removed from their socio-geo-politico-economic backgrounds. For a tribal woman sitting in Murshidabad, for example, who doesn’t even know that she has rights over her own body, the question of having sex before marriage or outside marriage is tertiary.
I’m not disappointed with the makers of this video. They addressed sufficiently serious issues, sitting in their distant, disconnected, air-conditioned offices, as best as they could. They targeted a group of people whom they can turn into potential subscribers. They did what they’re meant to do. I’m only disturbed by how gullible we are and how we quietly bought everything they sold.
The efforts of the team that put this video together are commendable to an extent. But please stop eulogizing every little thing that goes viral on the internet. There’s a world that’s suffering and burning for real, that needs you to be its mouthpiece.