By Swatee Jog
Many times, a small attempt at expressing a certain thought catapults into a huge debate. Especially when it is about women, people express varied opinions including whether women must have an opinion at all and even if they do have, whether they ought to express the same and how. The recent video featuring Deepika Padukone by Vogue has let out such a storm of diverse opinions that one is forced to sit up and take notice for all the wrong reasons. Firstly, everyone has a right to express their opinions. Secondly, this is an advertisement for a magazine and may or may not reflect what women in general across the country feel or believe. Thirdly, just because there is a celebrity involved does not mean the message should be thrashed even before understanding the context nor can it be generalized at all. Have a look at the male version of the ‘My choice’ video and one can see the stark irony in perspective when the same words are used by a man!
A lot of people have extreme opinions about certain things said in the video regarding marriage, late nights, clothing, child bearing, etc. With due respect to the sensibilities of the makers of that video, what strikes the most is whether women empowerment is all about staying out late and wearing whatever you like and doing whatever you want? Women need to be affirmative about their choices, but just by saying ‘my life, my body, my choice’ wont empower women if they are not mature enough to handle the consequences thereof. The right to choose comes with the responsibility for the consequences. And responsibility comes with maturity. This is valid for both men and women. Just like suppression of women is bad, so is extreme liberation and not just for women, but for everyone. In life, there can never be things in black and white and in extremes. Just like the opposite of happy is not always sad but ‘not happy’, so also the opposite of an arranged marriage cannot be a live-in relationship or bearing a child out of wedlock. Choices are not about choosing between black and white or always about life altering matters but the small decisions we make every day in our lives. A woman can choose to be modern or conservative and still be happy. A man can choose to deny the first stick of cigarette offered to him and still feel confident. Rebellion cannot be a choice. Choices are momentary; consequences last forever and impact a host of other people involved.
True women empowerment cannot come from outside, it comes from the family and grows in the society. It cannot be bestowed upon women like a special privilege, it is nurtured. Equal opportunities, a free and fair environment within the family, trust in the daughter’s actions comes out of strong upbringing. Non-judgmental parents win the child’s trust. A daughter’s choice may not always turn out right, but her strong upbringing gives her the strength to own up and endure if she goes wrong and mend things without playing the blame game. It is time the stereotypes of women are dissolved and the men see her as a complementary strength instead of an object of desire and suppression. Yes, women may not be able to quickly jump off the car and change a flat tire, but they are extremely good micro-planners, strategists, they understand subtle differences in employees’ behavior and are great at taking along teams. They don’t crave gratification and are born nurturers. It is time we give due respect to a woman’s strengths rather than laugh at her so called weaknesses. Nobody will laugh if a man cannot change a diaper, but raptures will be heard if a woman cannot change a leaking tap. It is time we accept the differences with the strengths. Men and women are meant to be complementary and not competitors.
A small video does not matter in the broader scheme of things, but when it is viewed and discussed in your circles, amongst your peers, it cannot be ignored either because media has the strength to shape opinions. It is time women empowerment be redefined. Choices are made out of strength. Strength is an enabler. Power sounds dominating.