The problem I have with the critics of the Vogue’s women empowerment campaign is that they have failed to understand the substance and meaning of the word “choice”.
First, it is not only Deepika Padukone who is sported in the video. There are several other women featured from all walks of life. The video speaks about a larger issue. The video is clearly about ‘freedom of choice’ and not about Deepika. She is merely a representative.
The most contentious statement seems to be “… to have sex outside of marriage. To not have sex. To love temporarily or to lust forever. To have your baby or not…”
Even if ‘she’ wants to have sex outside of marriage it is her choice though it does not absolve her from the consequences, but the fact remains that it’s her choice. The problem is we do not want her to exercise that choice!
Society tries to impose morals on others all the time, and primarily on women.
If ‘she’ says that it’s her choice, ‘she’ is not trying to say it is not ‘his’ choice too. It is not black or white. It is not about ‘he’ vs her, in fact, it is not about ‘he’ at all. All ‘she’ is trying to say is that it’s her choice and ‘she’ will face the consequences, but the choice remains with her.
We as a society do not want that choice to be with her and that is what ‘she’ is exactly defending.
As soon as we hear her say that, we want to take away that idea from her, whatever may be the reason, but we do not want to allow her to have that idea! We want her to conform to ‘our’ idea.
When I say ‘she’, I mean women and when I say ‘our’ or ‘we’, it means both men and women.
She is making it clear that she is breaking free from our morals and ideals that are imposed on her, that are ‘given’ to her. Hence, ‘she’ is defending the right to have ‘thought’, to have that ‘idea’, to have that ‘choice’ without being oppressed.
She wants that choice to be hers, but the larger question remains, does ‘she’ have that ‘choice’?
Do we as society ‘allow’ her to have that ‘choice’? The fact is choice remains with her and that very idea is uncomfortable to many. It acts as a kind of cognitive dissonance. We do not want to accept ideas which are discomforting to us, do we?
Certain men are victims of a similar bias, but there is a larger imbalance between the genders that we need to take notice of. Knowingly or unknowingly we are oppressing the other gender in the name of morality.
This message is coming from the deep frustration that women have been facing since centuries. You have to look beyond the so-called morality that we have imposed, to understand the pain of what women are going through because of conformity in the name of morality.
Stereotypes, caricatures and gender roles that we have succeeded in creating out of them. It is that pent up frustration and rebellious angst that is depicted in the video.
Sexism is deep rooted.
There are consequences to her actions but now the pain is so deep that ‘she’ does not care about ‘our’ morals and consequences!
She is bored about our dictates on her mind, her body, her spirit. She just wants to break free from the ‘shackles of morals’ that we are preaching about and imposing to inflict pain on her!
On one hand, we worship woman as Devi in her different avatars; Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth; Sarasvati, the goddess of knowledge; Durga, the goddess of power, love and fulfillment.
On the other hand, we inflict atrocities far greater and brutal on her, namely, genital mutilation, female infanticide, marital rape, domestic violence. Let alone the freedom of choice!
When will this hypocrisy stop? We need to become more sensitive towards ‘her’.
Sexism is deep rooted. It is a cry for help.