Saturday, April 4, 2015

My Views on #VogueEmpower Videos

First of all I want to say I’m all for women empowerment. I completely agree that it is a woman’s choice to get married, have a child, wear whatever she wants and choose her life and decisions.

Vogue’s empowerment campaigns though leave me a little confused.

For example the first video "Going Home" was of Alia Bhatt getting into a car full of male strangers and going home safely. 

I love Alia. But I don’t get the campaign. Yes we need to make our streets safe. But don’t we also need to teach our girls and women to be aware, be safe, be bold, be vigilant, be smart. 

Maybe that video should have been about Alia getting out, fixing her car, holding a wrench when a car full of men drives up and says, “Thanks but I got it covered.” And that should have ended with #Mychoice to be bold, my choice to be brave, my choice to change the world.

Vogue’s 2nd empowerment video "Start With The Boys" was of men being told not to cry. "Ladke nahin rote hain." 
And then in the end we see a man hurting his wife/ partner and the very lovely Madhuri Dixit comes and says “Aadmi rulate bhi toh nahin hai.”


What has that got to do the empowerment or have any relation? What did that video actually want to do? So men who don’t cry will hurt their wives? And men who do will be pansies? Whaaa?

In fact the video should have Madhuri Dixit saying, “It’s ok for men to cry. Take a woman’s support because we can give our shoulders to you too.”

Men should be sensitive. Men should cry. And women should understand that. Women should raise their sons to cry and feel and talk and discuss and that’s how you will have a generation of men who will express their feelings to their wives and girlfriends and never have misunderstandings! Yes they shouldn’t hurt women. But you’re not teaching that by this video.

So let’s come to Deepika’s video.
Yes I know there are 99 women in it. But it’s her voice and Homi’s vision. So while my Whatsapp groups are having massive debates on how beautiful it is and how it is always a woman’s choice to live life her way I have a few issues with this video and script.

First of all what the hell does “my odour, your anarchy” mean? Or for that matter many other phrases. And what's with this photo of Deepika in boxing gloves with a man looking so pitiful? 
I know plenty of great men who give their partners unconditional support and love. And all it takes for the woman is to help them understand what they need instead of screaming "Mychoice at them. 
Also empowerment is not about making men succumb to your every whim and fancy and boxing them to make them understand your view point. 

Yes it is a woman’s choice as I’ve said in the beginning but let’s talk about EMPOWERMENT for a second.

How does 99 privileged women with hair flying across the screen with a voice over of bindi, odour, sex have anything to do with the common woman and her empowerment?

I would change the video in 4 ways:
1. Had a mix of languages that women across the country speak. We have 30 languages. Why only English?

2. Get a mix of ordinary women with just a few celebs from different careers like a Chanda Kochchar or Indra Nooyi who can say “Don’t judge me because I’ve worked hard to be here.”

3. Get men who also believe in empowerment. Not all men are horrible people who will rape, criticise, judge and slander women. Have men in the video saying, “I’m a feminist.” And “I believe all men and women are equal.” “I will protect you because we need to change the world together.”

4. Take everyday situations to depict how we need empowerment.

For example a woman driving a car who says “Don’t judge me because I am a woman driver.”
A woman employee who is wearing what she likes and says, “I don’t need to sleep my way to the top. I’m smart enough. Don’t judge me.”  

A housewife who says, “I don’t want to sleep with you tonight. I’m not having an affair! Don’t judge me.”

A girl who wants to give up her job and get married, “I believe in love and want to be a mother. Don’t judge me if I give up my job!”

A woman who is overweight and says, “I am a National Award winner. And you’re still judging me on my weight?”

A village woman who will say in her language with subtitle below, “I refuse to have more than one child. I am not barren. Don’t judge me.”

I believe in empowerment. I believe these are the voices that need to be heard from women AND men across the country. Speaking sentences that resonate. That make sense. That we can agree with. That will raise a debate on how we can change our thinking. And truly become empowered. 


Omar Hasan Khan said...

Firstly, agree with the point that none of the videos actually depict or give a message of empowerment.

Secondly, couldn't open the link for Madhuri's video (YouTube blocked here in Pakistan), but the version we've seen here ends with her saying 'bachpan se hum sikhaatay aa rahay hain kay ladke rotay nahin, shayad humein yeh sikhaana chahiye kay ladkion ko rulaatay nahin'. Which is similar to what you've written above but I think on the face of it, the message was quite clear - don't hit women. However, once again, doesn't necessarily have anything to do with empowerment.

Lastly, you may want to, if you haven't already, read Shobhaa De's response to Deepika's video. She makes some valid points about the fact that the end of the day it's Vogue and their target audience.

It'd be interesting to know which channels this campaign has been run on etc. Otherwise yes, your ideas make sense and are actually to do with empowerment.

There are a lot of flaws with the campaign, mostly to do with the fact that it doesn't really have much to do with empowerment and I think that's where they lost the plot.

Mukul Katkar said...

You have great suggestions !!! I completely agree with you. That video seems more of a publicity stunt for the magazine than for woman empowerment.

Madhuri Banerjee said...

Thanks Mukul

Vogue has achieved that. Everyone is talking about the videos. But I am angry that they spent so much money and the theme of empowerment hasn't come out correctly. it is such an important issue for women and they've made a mockery of it! How many ppl will respect women and understand empowerment from their videos?


Mukul Katkar said...

Thanks for the reply. Many young girls, including teenagers, may misunderstand women empowerment from this video. We have a reason to be angry.

Mohit Singh said...

I totally agree with this blog!!!
see the reply...

Anonymous said...

Madam, thank you for sharing such an explicitly written article.

My perspective on the matter is that videos are basically trying to convince the women to think for themselves and enforce their ideas and wills. They have put up specific issues. Other women may have other thoughts on their empowerment. The only fault I can find in it is the advertisement is through only celebs whom most of the common people consider off society limitations because of the resources they posses.More good could be done projecting real life stories.

I have heard interviews of women on various reality shows who broke up their marriage due to uncomfortable situations in family without support from anyone, of single mothers, of feminists, of women industrialists, scientists, politicians,etc.I have been greatly inspired by women like Kalpana Chawla about whom I read in earlier classes. I know single women who are greatly respected by the society.So I think such ads should show real life stories.

At the same time I know women not being able to break up from societal norms due to economic conditions, concerns for children, etc. Fear drives these women to lose all hope.

So the advertisement must show women from all sects of life (as you have mentioned in your article) doing a variety of jobs- women bus and auto-rickshaw drivers, women entrepreneurs(India is a country with some of the least women entrepreneurs, women cooks, sportswomen,etc. We must aim to remove the image of job specifications for women from the minds of Indians.

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