Wednesday, April 1, 2015

NOT OUR CHOICE ( An open letter)





Dear Makers of the Vogue “Empower” video

Your recent video with air brushed  photographs of beautiful women in black and white with Deepika Padukone speaking about  “choice”  seems to have taken the social media by storm.  I congratulate you on  the achievement of your objective-  publicity  for your brand while ensuring spotlight on a confused actress – Deepika who has been desperately trying to position herself as a champion of different causes. 
Image for the news result
Your video mentions about “ninety nine women from all walks of life”- I am sorry , I might be poorly informed but  what walks of life are they actually from? I could not recognize any scientist,  sportsperson ( unless you want to position Deepika as one), politician, writer, doctor, musician, artist. I only saw beautiful women with flying hair smiling and pouting into the camera !  

The video speaks about the choice to be size zero or size fifty. I wonder if you people are aware that  for many women and girls  in our country size zero is not a choice – it is the reality that comes out of being extremely malnourished. They are usually the last to eat in their families and therefore get the least.  

The voice over speaks about a woman’s spirit “ roaming naked” . Seriously?  Don’t  your script writers know anything about language symbols? Being naked is symbolic of being vulnerable.  So how about using a word that is really empowering ? Or may be “Naked” is a more shocking word designed to get immediate attention! 

Trapped in cotton and silk? Yes of course if you are a model or a fashion icon. If you are a farm laborer it really does not matter. As long as you have clothes over your body…!! If you are a middle class mother like me anything that is easy to maintain would do. Our bodies are not trapped in clothing. They are trapped in tiredness, fatigue and worry.

“To love” or “To lust” are both luxuries for us.  Most of us do not have the freedom to marry for love or indulge our lust. We are fighting more basic battles. And for those of us who marry ( for love  or because of our families)the institution of marriage  is a sacred one.  To wear a bindi or a mangalsutra is not the issue.  Fidelity in any relationship is a basic value that we carry with us and expect of our partners too.  We may not believe in marriage but every relationship is bound by trust and fidelity. Having multiple partners is not something that we want. Many of us are forced by poverty to  do sex work but  it is not our choice!  We expose ourselves to STD and HIV/ AIDS when we do that and again that is not our choice. 

We believe in being responsible. Coming home whenever we like is not a frivolity that we  let ourselves indulge in. We have children , partners and families to whom we are accountable . We play multiple roles. We have to rush back home after a back breaking  day of working in the field to make  rice gruel for our children or board that crowded bus to be home in time to help the children with their home work or take our parents/ in laws for the doctor’s appointment. Some of us are lucky enough to have spouses who share our burden but we definitely believe in doing our bit. 

Empowerment is not about being irresponsible or doing as you like using a “naked spirit” as an excuse.   For those of us who do have the freedom to make a choice, it is governed by how it is going to impact those around us.

 Rights come with responsibilities.  Exercising them otherwise is just being selfish.  I am not the universe and neither does it revolve around me.  I am only a part of it. I coexist with the others  often doing more than my bit and being unrecognized for it .  I cannot change this world alone, I need men by side to make it happen.  

My sincere request to you is to please stay away from making these kinds of shallow videos. They do more harm to us than good.  Please look for some other way to promote your brand. After all you cater  to less than 1 % of our female population. 

Finally, I would suggest that if you want to really understand “My choice” you should come and meet me. You can find me anywhere- in farms, on construction sites, inside  buses , trains,  offices, market places, schools, hospitals, shops…..  I am almost one half of my country’s population.  You cannot miss me! 

Sincerely,

The Indian Woman

11 comments:

Leela Pal Chaudhuri said...

Brilliant!

anindita said...

At last a powerful and worthy post on My Choice. There are many many reasons why the Vogue video had angered me. Do not feel the need to pen down here since I know all my friends have similar thoughts. I wish they had not made such a weak and juvenile video...

Ok, yes, Deepika has good hair :P

deepta said...

Awesome!

SG said...

Very powerful letter.

Anilkumar Kurup said...

Ha ha that was worthy answer to this nonsensical emancipation video.
What is funny is that the video seems to say that walking naked and having multiple partners or livingin relationship and all that is starkly out of the ordinary is what is emancipation and empowerment of women.
The whole subject of choice was hijacked to libelous and ridiculous extend.
In any case the video doesn't represent the many many women who do not have a choice or do have a choice.The attempt was to earn surrogate commercial benefit by portraying Ms Padukone.

A silly and stupid video. I agree with you Meera in each word and sentence you used to describe it.
It was quite natural that some idiot ( men) asked if he can decide his choice ie to rape Deepika. See the way the issue has been understood.

KParthasarathi said...

The video has stirred up a hornet’s nest instead of helping the cause of empowerment of women. It talks of choices that women can make on the personal domain like the dress to be worn or not, choice of single or multiple partners, choice of man or woman and such. It should have talked about the substantive issues that need to be done for real empowerment of women at all levels in social, economic and political areas. Neither the length of video would permit such elaborate discussion nor was it the intention of producers. The video is evidently designed to attract publicity for the magazine than serve as a tool for women’s empowerment. Further the use of celebrities belonging to higher class to talk on empowerment of women in general is like asking an Ambani or Tata to talk on poverty related issues. But the producer and the actors, it must be conceded, have their choice to do what they want and people have their choices to view the video or not.
A well written and hard hitting post

Meera Sundararajan said...

Dear Everyone
Thank you so much for your comments. Glad that you agree with my thoughts. Unfortunately there are a lot of women out there in this world who think that the video is "superb"- that is what comes out of good aesthetics - photography and great background score!

Partha said...

This video made feminism exposed. Those who believe feminism is still about equality learnt hard lessons from this video. It is nothing but true self of feminism

http://themalefactor.com/2015/03/30/in-response-to-deepika-padukones-video-my-choice/

Tej Nandury said...

Dear Meera,

Thank you so much for writing this blog. I really enjoy your perspective on a lot of things. And I mostly agree with you...

Shalet Jimmy said...

Brilliant...you have put it, brilliantly...Kudos....

Shalet Jimmy said...

Deepika even said she is not approved of some of the lines.Then why did she endorse it? Maybe an attempt went in vain for being politically correct.....

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