Will Vogue put some real empowered women on magazine cover ?

What do you get when a wannabee intellectual filmmaker, an actress aiming for the strong independent woman slot and a leading fashion magazine get together

Vogue India is celebrating ’empowered’ women with a video that has Deepika Padukone talking ‘ intellectual’ lines about women. Yes, the same Deepika Padukone who has yet to act in a movie where there is any real women empowerment happening – unless you consider her crying in Cocktail over the guy who left her to be empowerment. Anushka with NH 10, Kangana with Queen or Rani with Mardaani have done something that goes beyond looking ‘fashionable’ on screen.

Why is this important ? Are we shooting the messenger here ?

We aim to understand the whole purpose of a magazine trying to come up with this masterpiece.

Vogue is a fashion magazine. It needs to sell fashion/cosmetics to impressionable young women.

This advertisement/women empowerment video follows the common thread in Indian advertising to women from selling everything from shampoo and sanitary napkins, to washing machines and cars. In the words of a Reddit user –

“You are wonderful, unique, beautiful, amazing! You are perfect just as you are! Be proud of yourself, and use this jewellery, and these clothes, and this fairness cream, and….”

Will Vogue India put these women on their cover ?

Karnam Malleshwari, Mary Kom, Harita Kaur Deol, M. Fathima Beevi.
Jayalalitha, Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati

Are they empowered enough Vogue ?

Girls you do want to be a weight lifter a boxer or a self made politician or a judge or a fighter pilot ?

Would you rather look good, wear the right clothes and follow the latest fashion trends. Explore your individuality by being like the models on this magazine’s cover.

So does vogue inspire women to grow as an individual, develop talents, pursue a career and become independent. That’s really not what the magazine is about.

Vogue teaches women the essential life skills

Mary Kom has not made the cover of Vogue, but Priyanka Chopra who played Mary Kom in a movie did.

QZ has very rightly called it hypocritical and goes on to say – Vogue and Padukone have a lot in common: They’re both from an industry that is based on fetishising, objectifying and reinforcing sexist standards of beauty on women. So when these two forces combined talk about women empowerment, one is left a bit confused, because, let’s be honest, the fashion and Bollywood do not empower anyone—women most of all.

The Message

Homi Adajania ( Being Cyrus, Finding Fanny ) directed a movie that is the epitome of women’s empowerment – Cocktail. A movie where Deepika Padukone’s character has some pre martial fun with Saif Ali Khan’s character. Saif guy then chooses the seedhi saadhi pooja doing Diana Penty character to marry. And Deepika bursts out crying about it. This regressive masterpiece didn’t really celebrate ‘her choice’ and went with age old Bollywood tradition of going for the ‘good girl’.

The video directed by this auteur gives us a social message that gives has been heavily debated and ridiculed on social media and blogs.

A woman has a right over her body and her choices, absolutely!
The video wants to make the usual right noises and then comes up with few gems :
“My body. My mind. My choice. To be a size zero or a size fifty. To use cotton and silk to trap my soul is to believe you can halt the expansion of the universe. You are my choice. I am not your privilege. The bindi on my forehead. The ring on my finger. Adding your surname to mine. They’re ornaments. They can be replaced. My choice. To come home when I want. My choice. To have your baby or not to have your baby. My songs. Your noise. My odour. Your anarchy. Your sins. My virtues. My choices are like my fingerprints. They make me unique. To have sex before marriage, to have sex outside of marriage. My choice. I am the tree. Not the forest. I am not the snowflake. I am the snowfall. You are the snowflake. I am the universe. Infinite in every direction.”

A bunch of statements that make as much sense as the director’s movies. My universe contracted a bit reading this pretentious piece of fluff.

The rest of the series is no better. There was a silly Alia Bhatt video and then ‘Start With The Boys’ starring Madhuri Dixit and directed by Vinil Mathe which talked about violence against women it was criticized for over simplifying the issue and giving a possibly misleading solution to a complex problem.

The talking point of Deepika’s video has been the line – ” To have sex before marriage, to have sex outside of marriage. My choice.”

Condoning adultery ? The act is illegal in India for a MAN. Yes, if a man has sex with a woman married to someone else, he can be charged with adultery and sent to prison. Not the woman. Going by the Madhuri video where you taught boys not to make women cry, why ask women to commit adultery and possibly emotionally hurt a man and make him cry. Also, might end up sending the guy you had sex with to prison. Wow .. much empowerment ?

The whole cheat, adultery and bigamy angle is added for provocation to raise protests and get more shares. You are against it ? Well guess you are the chauvinist prude this video fights while empowering women with some wise life advice.

Good PR can convince people that these individuals or establishments stand for women empowerment. It is advertising at it’s best. It’s a mockery of true women’s empowerment movement and those working for it.

Smart Marketing

The Vogue Empower videos say the same things that we have been hearing about since years. They don’t tread any new ground. If you watch news once in a while you might learn more about the issues raised and possibly get inspired to do something about it.

The Empower series tries to get some street cred about women’s empowerment, gets celebrities ( actresses ) to say some smart sounding lines and come up with a bit of controversy in the videos so that the brand name gets talked about a lot. The perfect Social Media recipe.

Most people who would understand the reasons for the criticism of this video are not likely to be the target demographic of Vogue or the fan base of Deepika Padukone. In 2 weeks the world will forget about this gem of ‘women empowerment’. Vogue will have gained a few more readers and Deepika will have released another movie.

In the process some serious issues will be trivialized into a few thousand likes and social shares of a pointless video that does nothing for the cause it claims to support.

Empowering women

It’s sad that to our modern and liberal media the crux of women’s empowerment is about what they wear and who they sleep with. Shouldn’t it be about encouraging them to be financially independent, pursue
a career and live their lives without compromising. The clothes and the sexual independence are the result of having the ability and confidence to take your own decisions. In a country where a lot of women have to be dependent on the men in their lives for survival for lack or education or employable skills,we can provide them jobs and education. Millions of women who lack basic sanitation and healthcare, the mothers who die in childbirth. Let’s try to empower them. Let’s help women get fair treatment under law and fix tradition that marginalize our women. That would be true empowerment.

That’s a task best left to the non glamorous teachers, NGOs, government and the true achievers who toil away with purpose and will likely never feature on the cover of a fashion magazine.

Lupin Human Welfare and Human Research Foundation
Sevadham Trust and Smile Foundation
Gramin Mahila Balakvikas Mandal
Mahila Shakti Pratisthan

They are not glamorous and they might not have Deepika Padukone making videos for them. But they do some real work towards empowering women lead a better life. If you really want to make a difference to the lives of women in this country, save the money you were going to drop on the next copy of vogue, and go out and help such organizations make a difference.