Deepika Padukone’s Vogue video helps shatter archaic attitudes

Point Counterpoint

by Marisha Ann Dutt

My Choice

A Goa Streets Debate Over Deepika Padukone’s “My Choice” Video

Whatever you think about Deepika Padukone’s “My Choice” video, it’s certainly done the trick for its maker Vogue magazine, creating a nationwide stir the likes of which have been seldom seen. One of the more striking elements of the debate is the sharp difference of opinion even among those who believe firmly in full equality for women. Is the video a delightful expression of woman power or a terribly misguided message for the women of today? To get both opposing viewpoints, UK-based Goan columnist Selma Carvalho and Goa Streets Publisher Marisha Dutt have each weighed in on the issue. Read on.

Deepika Padukone’s Vogue video helps shatter archaic attitudes

And that’s exactly what’s needed

Let’s face it. If Deepika Padukone’s “My Choice” video were pristine, proper and easy to digest, I wouldn’t be writing this story.

In the end, this video by Vogue India spreads a valuable message about female empowerment in a country with one of the world’s worst records on the rights and well being of women and girls.

By going viral and becoming an internet sensation, the video does the work of a hundred NGO public awareness campaigns and well-intentioned government broadcasts.

You don’t have to agree with Padukone’s every word to recognize the value of the message about the right of women to make their own choices in this nation where infant girls are murdered, girls are given less food, health care and education than boys, and many lack the opportunity to make basic life decisions for themselves.

By being over the top and embracing controversy – Padukone’s “choices” include sex out of marriage and sex with another woman –  the video was able to ensure a viewership of millions and a heated public debate.

Sure, the video’s real purpose is to boost Vogue’s profits, not empower women and girls. And it’s clear the message – with its references to lesbianism, lust, staying out late and unbridled freedom – was meant more for the urban elite than for the people who perhaps need to hear it most.

Still, we have to start somewhere, so why not urban India? It’s not like our metros are a bastion of modern thought, safety and equality for Indian women.

Messages that shake us out of our complacency can help shatter archaic thinking that has kept women down for millennia. Sometimes actions, speeches, videos and marches need to shock for change to come about. Would the west have achieved what it has in the realm of gender equality had there been no bra burning, “free love” movement or shattering of 1950s taboos?

This video by Vogue went viral precisely because it’s over the top, and deliberately controversial.

“To have sex before marriage, to have sex out of marriage, or to not have sex. My choice,” Pudokone says. “My choice. To love a man, or a woman, or both.”

While anathema to some, these words must be heard in a country whose Supreme Court has outlawed homosexual acts, and where young women are often controlled by their fathers, husbands and brothers. Men having affairs is considered par for the course. Women doing the same is an abomination. A man entering marriage without his virginity is a stud. A woman without hers is a slut.

Of all the video’s messages, the reference to “sex out of marriage” is clearly the most problematic, because this particular “choice” often hurts the other party. Still, this is sex, not murder. And it’s worth pointing out that in places not far from us right here in Goa, women are killed for committing adultery.

To say it’s your choice to have sex out of marriage is not the same as endorsing it.

In the video, Padukone says, “My choices are like my fingerprints. They make me unique. I am the tree of the forest.”

In the end, the message of the video is about freedom, and our people, especially our women, require much more of it. Boys can go out when they please. Girls must stay at home. Women ask their husbands and in-laws for permission to pursue a career.

Women, too, have desires, sexual and many other kinds. We have the right to express them. We also have the right to choose the paths that will fulfil us and bring us contentment.

I am not arguing that we should suddenly shed our Indian-ness and adopt the social mores of Oslo or San Francisco. Our culture has many virtues, including family primacy, committed relationships, respect for elders, and deep faith.

But the shackles that stifle the human spirit must be broken. I welcome any video that can help us achieve this goal.

Marisha  Ann Dutt runs Goa Streets along with her husband Steven Gutkin

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Marisha Ann Dutt

 

To read Selma Carvalho’s story opposing the ‘My Choice’ Video, click here.

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