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My choice – does it really empower women?

A recent video titled ‘My Choice’ features Bollywood actor Deepika Padukone in collaboration with Vogue India and aims to bring awareness to women’s rights and the right to make choices. The project is part of Vogue Empower, an initiative that the fashion magazine launched in October last year to mark its seventh anniversary in India.

Check out the video for yourself here.

The video, directed by Homi Adjania, has brought a lot of criticism as some claim that it is not the least empowering, but rather hypocritical. The project aims to empower women in the country and reinstate the notion that women have a choice over their bodies, relationships and their destinies.

However many claim that this message, coming from people like Homi Adjania and Deepika Padukone who both thrive in an industry that objectify and reinforces the sexist standards of beauty on women, is hardly empowering. Aren’t women in Bollywood presented as glorified dolls running around trees and dancing in glittery skimpy outfits?

In the video, Deepika recites

“My body, my mind, my choice. To wear the clothes I like; even if my spirit roams naked.

“My choice; to be a size 0 or a size 15. They don’t have a size for my spirit, and never will”

‘To use cotton and silk to trap my soul is to believe that you can halt the expansion of the universe.”

She also says:

“My choice to marry, or not to marry,

‘To have sex before marriage, to have sex out of marriage, or to not have sex”

“My choice to love temporarily, or to lust forever.”

Many seem to criticize the fact that Deepika talks about sex outside of marriage and that the issues brought up in the video are those of urban women, the elite, educated ones. What about those that line the villages of India who have no opportunity to even make those choices?

I can’t seem to take any extreme sides on where I stand on this video. While I feel that videos such as these are necessary to bring to light many different issues and healthy discussions about women’s roles, bodies, perceptions and gaps in our society, I do not feel that this video adequately discusses all of these. The video is stylish and sophisticated. Exactly. What is stylish and sophisticated about the issues women face?

Although there are images of many women in the video, the ones that stand out are those that are quite attractive and stylish, including that of Deepika. The messages in the video are lost against the backdrop of the the fancy and sophisticated imagery. I feel like it was a lost opportunity for a great message. It just goes to reinforce the fact that even when we have to stand up for women’s rights we have to dress it up in fancy, sexy stilettos in order to be heard. That itself undermines the efforts of this video.

I do hope that this sparks discussions nationally and globally as it already has. By bringing awareness to women’s rights in either a positive or negative manner, it creates a forum for people to discuss these issues. While there may be disagreements, any discussion is better than no discussion.

Recognizing it and discussing it will help identify steps – even if it may be small, slow steps -in finding solutions.

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