“You have a choice. Live or die. Every breath is a choice. Every minute is a choice. Every time you don't throw yourself down the stairs, that's a choice.”
-Chuck Palahnuik, Survivor
Leaving viewers with a confused message that doesn’t end up conveying much about empowerment at all, it has left in its wake a bizarre conversation that touches upon infidelity and Vogue and Bollywood’s long-standing association with upholding certain beauty standards. Not to mention Deepika’s quest to establish herself as an independent young woman. The women’s rights the video was supposed to be discussing however, have been lost in the tumult, a casualty to its own hypocrisy.
Ranging from publications to Facebook statuses, we came across a couple of reactions to the video that have raised some pertinent points about it, that have resonated with us, made us crack up and been far more thought-provoking than the video itself. So although it didn't do the job directly, at least Vogue's video encouraged valid debate. Here are a few snippets you should read:
Chandrima Pal, Dailyo.in - "Choice is a powerful idea. But it is also a privilege."
“Choice is a powerful idea. But it is also a privilege. Some women are born into it. Most Indian women have to earn it the hard way. Merely addressing the YouTube audience from the frame of a slick video in a language that fails to register, is missing the point by the whole nine yards.”
“Give me an acid attack victim who speaks of being ostracised and dares you to look her into the eye without flinching. Give me an ordinary woman who does not need to conform to this idea of coolth with strappy clothes and silver arm bands who makes her own choices and is proud of it.”
“We wish Deepika had been equally vocal about being part of a certain AIB Roast. Or come out in full support of a colleague who was endlessly heckled by men who could not handle losing in a game played by "gentlemen". Now that would have been as empowering as it would have been cool. The film's heart is in the right place no doubt. But its head is rather directionless.”
Gunjeet Sra, Quartz - "The basic problem with the likes of Vogue and Padukone appropriating women's rights? They do nothing for women!"
"The basic problem with the likes of Vogue and Padukone appropriating women’s rights is that, they do nothing for women. They talk about the prerogative of choice, but they don’t explain the burden of those choices. They talk about empowerment when they are themselves slaves to consumerism. Freedom and empowerment is not something that can be sold through the glossy pages of a magazine. It can only come through experience and self-knowledge.
What Vogue and Padukone are doing is merely telling a whole generation of women to grow up in a bimbo culture—women can be comfortable with the choices they have made, as long as they fit the stereotypical definition of beauty and conform to the latest fashion trends."
3) TheLadiesFinger.com - "To think of pregnancy as size 50 because an actual fat woman could only be in a Vogue #Cower video."
We decided to read into the video, just in case, y’know, we missed any subtext. Here is what we heard.
"My black and white. My slow-motion. My choice.
To use the words naked and body and soul and spirit.
To sound like deep in a diamond ad.
My choice to not talk about anything real that I do
But everything that I do that associates me with you,
And your life as a man. Your baby, not mine.
What you can and what you can not.
My choice to say the words sex and lust and bindi,
Reinstating the stereotype of minxy and brown.
To think of pregnancy as size 50 because
An actual fat woman could only be in a #VogueCower video.
My choice to not talk about my work, my job, my career,
My medical problems, my everyday discriminations
But instead to talk about how I could be into girls.
My choice to abuse poetic license like a blogger
who has just discovered the oxymoron,
My choice to make you think of me as a goddess infinite, unattainable, all powerful, apathetic.
My choice to be the other in your fantasies. My black and white.
My full HD. My slow-motion. Wake up."
You have loose motion.
4) Ankur Poddar’s Reaction Video
This one’s an ‘unofficial male version’ parodying the Vogue video that succeeds in capturing just how absurd some of the statements are in the original with analogies of its own, and the melodramatic expressions are pretty spot on too. It highlights how if a man had made statements like these, he’d have been labelled a chauvinist instantly, and ends at the mention of extramarital sex (a reference to the original which tried to make adultery sound okay in an effort to be edgy, that went horribly wrong) also saving us from pondering on the various directions ‘infinite’ can extend towards.
5) Nush Gloos Lewis, commenting on the DailyO piece - "The fact that they endorsed adultery was where I really laughed. And I laughed because they painted it in a positive light."
“I found it a bit ridiculous that an actress who once endorsed a whitening face cream that made your skin lighter in 6 hours is now in a women's empowerment video. Granted that she's a big name and may get all the eyes, but there was no one in that video that one could relate to. As the author rightly said, the 'Boys don't cry' video is way more powerful because it showed people just like you and me who everyone can relate to.
This was the exact same thing as casting Priyanka Chopra to play Mary Kom. Certain words were powerful and certain were not. The fact that they endorsed adultery was where I really laughed. And I laughed because they painted it in a positive light. Nothing about cheating on the one you love is right. VOGUE India, you guys could have been a little more smart about this."
6) Rajyasree Sen, Newslaundry - "Is being beautiful all it takes to strike a chord with Vogue readers?"
"If you have a bunch of celebrities at your disposal, is it really too much to try to string together a coherent video with a clear message. Or is being beautiful all it takes to strike a chord with Vogue readers? Going by how much money must have been spent on this video and the publicity around it, I cannot but rue the wasted opportunity. All Homi Adjania and Deepika Padukone have achieved is to show us how not to make a video on women’s empowerment. Also, if a bunch of Homi Adjania’s celebrity friends and celebrity friends' wives striking poses with wind-blown hair while disconnected sentences are spoken makes you feel empowered – Vogue and Cosmopolitan must be your bibles for emancipation."
7) Dalel Benbabaali, Facebook
"Anarcho-feminism is the most radical, holistic form of feminism. When you start reading Emma Goldman, you can't bring yourself to click on Vogue videos starring Deepika Padukone. As long as you live in an oppressive economic and political system, "your choice" is an illusion of freedom."
8) Chicklet, Gaysi Family - "The need of the hour is to invert context. To create a new language that defines women."
"The video has taken for granted that things are a certain way, like most of us tend to do – for whatever reason – culture, patriarchy, our circumstances, the content of our life’s experiences.
And in order to change things, we keep moving the content around… We keep juggling within the same context. For example, we keep talking about not objectifying and measuring women, and yet we continue to stay within the conversation of sizes! It is pointless! And history has witnessed that inverting the context doesn’t help much. Perhaps, the need of the hour is to invent context. To create a new language that defines women. This would not necessarily change the lens or mindsets per se; but I believe it would create a possibility wherein those old assumptions simply stop defining who we are. A context of that manner should be our only choice."
9) Piyashree Dasgupta, Firstpost - "This was an 'us' and 'them' exercise. The video suggests that men are inevitably at odds with choices women make in their lives."
"Through the course of the video it becomes clear that it is meant to be a monologue aimed at men. An 'us' and 'them' exercise. Also, one in which it has been already determined that we are better than them. It suggests that men are inevitably at odds with choices women make in their lives.
I was 20 when I landed by first job at a newspaper desk in Kolkata. "I have to go to work at 5 in the evening and will return not before 3 am," I declared to my gobsmacked parents who were then unaware of how a newspaper office worked. "How will you stay awake?" my father muttered, before quickly scribbling down the office phone number as I rolled my eyes and waved my newly-acquired safety device - the mobile phone - at him.
At three in the morning, our bustling, talkative middle class south Kolkata neighbourhood slept in squeaky silence and the familiar walls of my house looked decidedly Hogwarts-ish with long shadows. For two long years, the father stayed up to fetch me from the office car which would not enter narrow bylanes. My mother was a teacher at a morning school and could not stay up that late. In my father's world women who held jobs worked "normal" safe hours until I came along. But he adjusted. It was a choice I didn't make alone, it's a choice we made together. And I know that's not just my father, that's many many other Indian men. And it's completely unfortunate that the Vogue video, with its black and white stereotyping, cannot understand that simple fact."
10) Aniket Dasgupta, Facebook
"Hey Deepika Padukone. When you get time from your first world problems, here's an issue that a lot of Indian women face everyday.
Can you and VOGUE India help? Oh wait."