Vogue ‘My choice’: A brand of ‘feminism’ we don’t need

India needs a feminist movement of a grand scale- one that is inclusive of all genders, socio-economic strata and sub-cultures. It requires a whole lot of sensitivity, engagement with mind-sets, dialogue and constructively challenging assumptions. Amid this, we have Vogue producing this video:

The trouble is not that they produced it, presumably with the best of intentions, but the fact that it is going viral. Here’s why it’s trouble:

It alienates men: It is not just defiant in its tone, which would be understandable as a reaction to undue pressures felt by women, but it’s openly adversarial. For instance, what is this talk about ‘I am a snowflake’ (unique), you are snowfall (composed of me?)?

What kind of change is anyone hoping to bring about by alienating half of the population? Many Indian men have shown that they will stand up for feminist causes, including during the protests following the Delhi gang-rape in 2012. Just let’s do the cause a favour- please don’t tell the men that feminism is none of their business. Because it has to be, especially in a patriarchal society which is the reality we live in. Apparently it should hurt the ego of empowered women that they do need men after all, even after the video has grandly declared, “I am the universe”. But the truth of the real world is- men need women, women need men, and the society needs them to respect each other and live harmoniously.

It talks about ‘rights without responsibilities’: That’s just plain immature, coming from anyone. They seem to be saying it’s one’s right to have sex outside of marriage (without responsibility to one’s spouse and marriage? Why this right for women only?).. it’s ‘my choice’ to have ‘your’ baby or not (taking no responsibility to reach a joint decision- a fair expectation in any relationship/ marriage)… ‘my choice’ to come home at any time without any explanations whatsoever: this one sounds like an open threat, “I am going to have an affair if I feel like it, you cannot help it by looking at the watch” (again, no responsibility towards one’s spouse?).

Rather than choices of a mature woman, they sound like threats of a petulant teenager, who still hasn’t figured the meaning of the word ‘responsibility’.

There’s nothing feminine about it: Feminism is not only about preserving women’s rights, but also preserving feminine values in an increasingly androgynous world. The values that women inherently bring to families, communities and workplaces i.e. inclusiveness, harmony, influencing skills, thinking about the collective rather than only their individual interest. The task is to inculcate these values in boys and girls, rather than to turn women to aggression and arrogance.

Mystical for no reason: I feel alienated at the declaration, “I am the universe, infinite in every direction”. I am not sure I am infinite. I shouldn’t need mystical declarations about my greatness to earn respect. I am a regular person with rights like anyone else-simple as that. That’s all that feminism is about. If you ask some men who love their wives whether their wives are ‘infinite in every direction’, they’ll probably say, “Well, sometimes she gets too tired to go buy groceries with me. But we get things done as a team, and I love her.” That’s the real-world, practical feminism we need from men and women.

Confused role modelling: Deepika Padukone. I like her as she’s brave, hardworking and dignified. But she is no feminist role model- she sat mostly quietly through Satyamev Jayate episode on concept of masculinity in India, and expressed surprise at the end that reel depictions influence real-life behaviours. What else could she say, given her body of work on screen? Yes, she recently spoke about mental illness.. but it’s not all interchangeable you know, “Yeah.. mental illness, feminism.. same thing..she speaks, that’s good enough.”

Obviously, the reason she’s brought in is because Vogue wanted a certain brand image- how’s that for objectification?

Let’s hope this and future presumably well-meaning efforts don’t unknowingly end up defaming feminism.





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