Monday, March 30, 2015

Criticizing Criticism

Straight off this is about the women's empowerment video by Vogue starring Deepika Padukone etc.

Straight off, I liked it. I liked the camera work and aesthetics of it. I liked the attempted intent/message in it. And of course, I liked Deepika Padukone in it also. Because I like her way too much and I am hugely biased.

Yeah so that's out of the way.

This is actually not so much about the video as much as it is about the criticism against it. Of course, in today's day and age of when outrage on anything and everything in social media is the new fad, the criticism had to be expected. But some were so freaking ridiculous, it actually got me off my laziness of typing and brought me back to this long forgotten blog simply because I had to express my opinion somewhere. 

So let's get to the more ridiculous "offences" of this video straight away.

One of the first points raised was "Hey, because this message was by Vogue and it is their marketing strategy, they only want you to buy their stuff and you shouldn't fall for it." Yeah, because, hey, a marketing strategy by Vogue or Elle or even Victoria's Secret for that matter, using words like "empowerment" and "choice" should not be believed and even if they say good things you have to keep in mind that it is to sell their products. Oh! the evil plan behind it! Marketing their products by talking about empowerment! And have you thought about the fact that whether or not you like the video, you still have the "choice" to buy these products? They are not "cheating" you, you know.

Of course, the whole question of morality! How can we ever let that one go. "To have sex out of marriage" oh Whoa! really?! Because in India everyone is so moral and right that how dare Vogue even mention this?! Well, here's how. She said "choice". Maybe, you are not okay with it and I am not okay with it. But maybe the point is someone out there is okay with themselves and their partners doing what they want. We can't accept it and we can choose to hate it but it IS after all their choice. Why are we assuming that they are talking about adultery or cheating at all? Maybe they have a sexless marriage and who are YOU or I to judge the right or wrong of someone in that situation? Or  maybe they are unhappy but decide not to be separated for a zillion "moral" and "societal" reasons (read that as fearing the judgement of the likes of you) and so find whatever solution suits them. Or she knows her partner loves someone else and she deserves some love too or whatever other many hypothetical situations. Why assume that they are okaying cheating at all? Cheating is the highest form of disrespect one can feel. Ask me about it and I can tell you tales about why I am a single mother for the last 5 years. But what if there are a hundred ways either one of the two partners are being disrespected or hurt or abused or not even being acknowledged or if it is some kind of agreement between the two. I don't know what is right and wrong. But. I know enough to not judge that choice because I don't know that story. (Shit! Now I am branded immoral for life! :D)

Another problem of course was with the "size zero or 15 bit" and you know why the criticism was especially ridiculous? Because this was the logic of it. Deepika shouldn't have done this ad. Because, Deepika acts in the Kellogs ad that talks about losing weight and regaining shape in two weeks?! Or in the garnier ad? Or that, and this is the BEST bit, she dates only "good looking" (very very subjective because I don't think that way about Sid Malya or Yuvraj or Ranbir Kapoor, for that matter) men.
Oh! the irony! you say? Hey! it's her "choice" I say. "She" (read that as any woman who) wants to lose weight for her friend's wedding? Her choice. She wants to look fairer (And I am so against the whole fairness thing, my complexion is evidence to that), but it's still, her choice. She likes her men to look "good", her choice. The point here isn't to be one way or the other. The point was simple - the girl has a choice to what she wants to be and an outsider doesn't get to criticize her personal choice like YOU seem to be doing in that response. Have you considered that we live in a day and age where parents constantly criticize daughters to eat less, to get thin, to look pretty and so forth? Yeah, there is a thought behind that. HER choice. Simply, if a woman does want to look thinner or fitter, that's also her choice. Why assume that that is a message to get anorexic, woman?!

Another one was that she said "You are my choice. I am not your privilege." and the criticism? That that one should go two way. Of course, I agree that that should go two way. But why was the message necessary and more woman oriented? Because, guess who is treated like a privilege in this country more? Like a property, to be exact. Even today, I personally know very well educated guys from decent background who don't flinch while saying "I want my wife to be a virgin when I marry her because no one should have "owned" her before". Yeah. She is not a person. Just a package for that thing he alone is born to "own". 
Guess who is still given a choice about their own life decisions and who is not? Guess who is forced more for a hundred zillion things to do and not to do? Oh for Heaven;s sake, guess whose "right" (not even choice) to be even born is taken away in unimaginable numbers. Of course it should be everyone's choice. But this just happened to be a more "Give the woman also a choice" message. That is like saying why are all the "prevent rape" ads more women-centric. Indeed, they shouldn't be. Boys get raped too. Don't you think they deserve protection?  It is all okay to create Hoo-Haa and find things to criticize every word that is said out there. There is no justification for why the talk s always about protecting or giving right for "only women".  Just that women do get raped a lot more and women do get subjugated and their rights taken away a lot more. But, under all regular "I am not here to criticize everything" thought, it would be fair to have a message out to save everyone and make everyone a choice for everyone. This one just happened to be about women, like most of the "equality" and "gender rights" messages usually are.

And oh! again. To have your baby or not. Okay. Have you ever stopped to consider that most of the (no matter how lame) "women empowerment" messages are not for people like you or me who, thank heavens for that, are from way more protected and empowered background than a vast majority? That women are still married off as little girls an forget given a choice, but FORCED to bear multiple children? Or that a woman who gets pregnant out of wedlock decides to keep the baby when the guy doesn't want her and should be given a choice to do that. Or simply that she is addressing the society against the stupid prejudice that every woman who does not become a mother is "incomplete" in some way and/or something is wrong with her? Maybe she AND her partner have decided to not have a baby and she is addressing her in-laws and parents who only and always criticize her (never the "beta").  Once again, the point is not that a woman should always refuse her husband. No. The point is simply that the woman should "ALSO" be given a choice. After all it is HER body. She shouldn't be forced or criticized for what she wants with that body.

Another one of the most ridiculous flaws about the video was that it was made by almost all men, that is written, directed and produced by men. Yeah because when men make a video on giving women choices we are taking away the choice from women to make similar videos. And instead of being happy that we have men who do stuff like attempting women-"centric" videos, we somehow see it as anti-empowerment. Yeah well, that one is so stupid it doesn't even warranty a response.

Of course, there were more. There were so many about the things that were "Not" said in the video. How the video was lame in not mentioning the more important things like career and work and medical problems and discrimination but instead only mentioned things like choices about sexual orientation and stuff. Erm, yeah that's the point about choice. People can make videos about whatever aspect of a topic (in this case the aspect of "choice" among various topics related to empowerment). People make videos about preventing rape, about what to wear being a woman's choice and not a license to be raped, about career choices or the choice to be a stay at home person (not using wife or mother. Just a person), about equal pay among genders, about medical problems and what not. This one was someone's choice to be about "Choices" like body image issues and sexual orientation and whether to have a baby or not and about feeling like a queen in her life. So what? Why would you criticize their choice for a subject of their video? 

The whole point is to be given a choice. What people do with the choice they have, whether they take the "right" path or "wrong" is for them to decide.  Everyone  must have the right to do what they choose to do in life and then suffer the consequence of that  choice. The whole point is that no one should go around defining how people of a certain race, cast or gender should live. It's is person's perogative to choose.  Just as when we raise our children.  We can teach them about "right" and "wrong". And once they grow up, we can hope they make the right choices. But we still can't force them to do one thing or the other. But we have to five them the right to make that choice and hope for the best.  Well, enough said. 

And, if you haven't seen it yet, this is the Oh! So offending video by the Oh! so wrong people:


  1. This is a great article. I have been trawling internet to find a blog in support of this video. Thanks!

  2. Brilliant. This sums up the whole 'my choice' saga. I hope anyone that reads this article will not debate and not put out more criticisms about this topic. Fantastic article!

    1. Thank you so much. :)
      I am sure at some point someone will, as is there choice to do. :D
      I just hope they keep their points sensible and clean and not all about "morality" and outrage. That itself is too much to hope for these days.

  3. Great article, good try to justify a feminist vid by any cost BUT still it doesn't throws light on how all these things will lead to women empowerment.
    All the actual issues which actually affects majority of Indian women or an average Indian women remains where they are AND the so called issues mentioned in this video are hardly issues .. These are actually desires of high society women which they are actually fulfilling in one or other and no one, not even their parents asks for an explanation why their girls came so late, were they sleeping around, were they taking drugs etc.. High society is quite used to all these, it's almost every week story if not everyday.. BUT I am sure it's no way near to middle class which are the masses... So whom are they trying to convey this wrong message to ?
    Surely the vid should have been named "HighSocietyFemaleChoices" or "ShadesOfHighSocietyFemale"

    1. Thank you so much for leaving a comment.
      I can accept your argument that it doesn't cover the more serious issues regarding women's empowerment and other problems faced by us. But I do not accept that whatever little they are trying to convey is "wrong message". Maybe it seems not important enough to people in comparison to other issues but it's still not wrong. The video is about giving a woman a choice about her life, her lifestyle, her body, her relationships. It is not about right and wrong. It is not about safety and rape and education and non-equal pay and whatever else other things we are used to seeing in an empowerment video. This is about choices. High society or middle class. Simply choices. And it matters in a country where a girl child is even snatched away the option of being born owing to being a girl. Why take away the choices only because of one's gender. No matter how big or small the choices are.
      And, more to the point, I am not trying to "justify" a "feminist video". I am just trying to point out that if someone wanted to make a video, not about rape and women's safety and women's hygiene products and education, but instead about simple choices, why should we criticize their choice or right to do so? :)

  4. Middle-class or high class, every one have the right to make a choice. Just make sure to look at the consequences also. And I'm sure every sensible person will always make the right choices only :D

    1. Exactly. Thank you. And even if sensible people may also make wrong choices in life at times, the point is that people have the right to make those choices. It's like when we bring up our children. We can teach them right and wrong, good from bad and then hope that this teaching will help them choose the right things. But we can still only hope. We can't force them into making this choice or that. We can teach and we can guide and we can suggest. That's the only point. Everyone should have a right to make their own choices or mistakes or whatever.

  5. I agree with above comment as Surely the vid should have been named "HighSocietyFemaleChoices" or "ShadesOfHighSocietyFemale".

    This is very insightful article. I would not say that defending feminism, but defending your favourite actress seems more accurate. Definitely it forces us to see the other side of the statements made in the video in Deepika's voice. But then it's everybody's choice to criticize it and not to agree with Deepika or vogue or thousands of people our there who are in support of this msg.

    Here is my choice, if you would like to read :

    1. Haha. Thank you. I do like Deepika a lot, as admitted. But I thought the article was more about the whole concept of freedom of choice. That there may be right choices and wrong choices but what is important is everyone gets to make those choices under no duress except their own conscience.
      And I completely agree with you that it's each individual's choice whether to support or criticise anything. And there's nothing right or wrong in either of those preferences. What would be wrong on the other hand is not having the freedom to make that preference for yourself.

  6. Hey Archana,

    I saw the video..and I see the point Deepika was trying to make (Not much of a Deepika fan, but do respect her). I think people are criticising from an Indian perspective where women are not allowed to make free choices and conform to societal norms. I do not agree with any of that and believe learning to make own choices and learning the mistakes you made in making those choices will help you learn what really life is about and perhaps bring a broader perspective and enlighten others. I feel like discovering your own identity and being your own person helps you respect what you are and how you are, rather than being pressured by what "society" says and later be miserable from it. Differences are good because you see things at different angles and learn everyone should be respected no matter how different they are from others.

    Still active on Twitter, have not seen you on lately (but also not on too often lol)

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