By Komal Sikha *
Of late, the internet is high on the Vogue Empower Video Blog My Choice, featuring the beautiful and brilliant Deepika Padukone. Thumbs up to the Vogue and the team behind the video project. Kudos to Dippy Darling, as the 99 other women in the backdrop could not have spread the message far without her iconic presence.
Having invited many acceptances, and some more dismissals, from all the corners of social media, the original video still gave way to many parodies. There was Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own; here is Vogue Empower’s A Choice of One’s Own. Not much has changed really. Whenever a woman rightfully talks of her empowering choices, there would always be some who would wrongfully showcase their autocratic choices.
The most hard-hitting question in response to the video is: Is it really empowering? Yes, it talks for the large part about empowerment, by all the mediums available to an international Fashion Magazine and for its target audience. But that does not make it fake; it is something which essentially goes back to the Natural Law Theory that all humans are sovereign owners of their selves. Women are no exception to this rule. If some of the reactions to the Vogue video are anything to go by, patriarchy is too deep-rooted in Indian society to be wished away with some lip service to women’s liberty. Who is a woman? Where was she? Her choices? What and why is that? An extract from Maya Angelou’s poem Still I Rise explains the situation better.
“Does my sexiness (choice) upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?”
Most likely, the My Choice video has been prepared with the right intention of promoting an individualistic view of women, by women, for women. All it talks about is a free life movement. “My body, my mind, my choice To wear the clothes I like; even if my spirit roams nake.d My choice; to be a size 0 or a size 15. They don’t have a size for my spirit, and never will . . .” These libertarian stances not only enable a woman to have control of her body and spirit, they encourage her to take responsibility of her life in all forms — to have a body, to have a mind, to have a choice to have choices, and of course to do whatsoever, she likes or thinks, whether good or bad for her. The sense of good or bad should be her moral choices, not moral obligations directed by somebody else. “My choices are like my fingerprints. They make me unique.” Her dos and don’ts also need to be her thoughtful choices, not impositions on her body or soul from external forces. In this context, the viral video is, in the truest sense, a ‘pro-woman’ initiation with the clear message My Body My Choice, which believes a woman must have complete autonomy of her body, free from all interference in her choices for her body or mind, as long as it does not breach others’ autonomy, harms others’ body or disturbs others’ mind.
For a bunch that has missed the mark and failed miserably to get into the essence of the Vogue video, here are the answers to some of the spoofs in their language.
She: My Body My Choice = Rapist: I rape, My choice + Terrorist: I kill, My Choice. Look at your intelligent comparison, and you say Her Choice is hypocritical and superfluous. Oh yes, she asserts her choices in respect of her own body, only her own body. In this bargain, a rapist must tear his own ass and beat as much as he pleases. A terrorist is most welcome to leave the burden of life to God, and explode oneself far away from the madding crowd.
In its attempt to spoof My Choice harder, a blog on Logical Indian Page falls flatter as it has a man saying – I am fat, bald, Momma’s boy, My Chiose, and you should not feel embarrassed at parties, pester me to hit the gym, nag me and my Mom. Come on, your online Dr. Batra can email to you hair story of a tale teller, and your life partner cannot just cheer you up to get fit and fab. It is when both need to respect, rather than control each other’s choice. Another low irking by a man goes like this – “If wish to marry a girl who promises wealth and gifts, My Choice.” Dowry is the transfer of parental property to a girl at the time of marriage. She would decide if she needs dowry from her parents, or not. Meanwhile, you have a good choice, that is to be a real man, and a better choice too, not to beg at her parents’ door.
If there is a weird thing about My Choice video, then that will be the following My Choice version of nosy Kamal Khan. In an alcohol-like excitement, “I ask you out, My Choice. I stare at you, My Choice.” Oh Man or no-man, it’s her choice too to get you involved with, or get you lost on the way to hell. Just because of your good-for-nothing lecherous stares, she chooses your boss over many like you. Of course, It’s your choice to get through her belief or not. The spoofs do not fall short, as a fresh dog’s version of My Choice hit the internet. If a woman’s choice and a dog’s choice can be logically put together side by side, it should not be illogical for a woman to choose a dog over a man.
“Let it be My choice To marry, or not to marry To have sex before marriage, to have sex out of marriage, or to not have sex My choice.” It has invited the loudest howl, having been misunderstood to be her advocacy for betrayal or adultery. If rape within marriage is made silent, then sex outside marriage also is needs to be noiseless. No statistical record would disagree with the fact that the number of rape cases is much higher than the number of adultery cases in India. Let’s get into the real essence of the quote — she just makes a choice – not to be into any forcible or painful sex, or at length, to have sex with the person she feels safe and comfortable with. It is, of course, a man’s choice to give her a secure environment or send her away to another man.
The male version of My Body, My Choice, which has been made in response to the original Vogue version, is not to be ignored. The guy in the video is a stunner too, like Deepika. His Choice video is successful in its dramatic duplication of Her Choice one, until the climax scene, where a man and woman flight in the middle of a busy street, and which falls back into the ill-founded stereotyping and gender-primitivism. Well, it is so nice of you to be standing against betrayal or adultery in your choices. Nobody, man or woman, likes to be cheated or double-crossed, in a relationship, and such sad and petty things happen when a relationship loses its footing over love and respect. It has nothing to do with the gender of an individual.
Lastly, to do or not to do anything related to own body or mind should be a matter of an individual’s own choice. Right to choose is as essential as any other human right and can be practiced when he or she has the freedom of choice. A moral choice too is a choice in itself. Hence, be responsible while making your own choices, and respectful towards each other’s choices.
* Komal Sikha is a budding writer, who has written coming of age fictions like ‘You Are Not Mine’ and ‘Miles Apart’. She was born in Kolkata, currently lives in Bhubaneswar and holds a Master’s Degree in English & Comparative Literature from Pondicherry University.