Yes. It is gender equality. What has made this the most discussed topic in the past few days is Vogue’s video ‘My Choice’, starring Deepika Padukone. While I am yet to read anything that has been written in defense of the video, there has been enough number of comments, blog posts, memes and videos that criticized it with different magnitudes of severity. I am not going to do any criticism here. Neither am I going to ask you to interpret it as what you think is appropriate. I am going to just talk about gender equality with reference to the video.
The sensational statements made in the video are what people got attracted to. Had it been an explicit critical analysis of the subject, it would have been just another one in the heap of ‘very good’ videos. Criticism is proof of the attention it gathered. People have started to brood over feminism after watching it. They have started to define what women empowerment really is. They have started to put questions and started to search for answers. And for all this, it is a success. Despite all the criticism, its purpose has been served, the purpose to make every one think and talk about gender equality. Whether this was intended, especially in this manner, or not, I don’t know.
One thing I noticed in the wave of reproval that has hit the social media is that people always tend to search for messages. This is a deplorable state. We always want to be preached, told what to do and what not, and provided with theories for testing. As if we don’t have brains of our own. An art form, whether it is a movie or a drama or a painting or anything else, exists just for abstract expression. They give you a story or visual, not a message. I doubt if people would realize this before the artists start to lose their creativity. However, people did use their brains here and hence this dissent. But what is funny is that everyone tends to attack the makers of the video as if they are the torchbearers for the future of women empowerment.
The principle problem with human society is that it tends to condition its pupils. While growing up, women are needed to acknowledge that they are women and men, men. And both these genders, then, conform to the societal norms. All this conditioning is the cause of gender inequality. Apart from the anatomy, there is not much difference between a man and a woman. All these distinguishable (behavioral) characteristics are a result of either self-inflicted or society-inflicted conditioning. And breaking free from this conditioning by realizing, not intellectually or wordily but actually and I mean actually, that a man and a woman are equal is what feminism should be about. But all that I read about is the importance of disciplining men and ‘empowering’ women.
One of the ubiquitous human mistakes is not to be comprehensive. People got so emotional over this entire man-woman divide that they overlooked the very basic philosophy of living a life: happiness. And happiness has nothing to do with gender. It is all about doing what you want to do, doing what you choose to do. ‘Humanity took a wrong turn,’ said Jiddu Krishnamurti. And the wrong turn was choosing not to be free. This is of course evident in the misery all around us. And this wrong turn was not taken by only a man or only a woman but by the human. And to be free again, you must choose to be free. And being free is not forcing societal norms onto someone. And this is where a choice comes; a choice which is influenced not even by our own thought. Take a bow Homi Addajania, if this is what you meant.
Come the part that has caused the most outrage: ‘It is My Choice to have sex outside a marriage.’ ‘But men already do it’, said a defender. ‘You cry when a man does it; he is humiliated for it. Then what will be the difference if even a woman does the same?’ said an offended woman. True, that, in most people’s view, infidelity is not moral. But does imposing the principle that it is immoral change people’s mindsets? Has it changed the mindsets of countless men and women who have cheated their spouses? It is all about love. Love is what holds a marriage; what causes people to not choose to seek pleasure outside the marriage. In short, love influences choice.
Don’t tell me that this video is asking all those women who are happy in their marriage to go and have ‘sex outside their marriage’. What the video did was reminding the male chauvinists that a woman is devoted to her husband, to her children and to the rest of her family because it is her choice, not a compulsion. She chooses to happily leave all her comforts for us and she is not being great but being reciprocal to the affection we show to her. The video said, ‘The bindi on my head and your surname next to my name can be replaced but my love for you cannot. Treasure that.’ That should have made everything clear. But unfortunately, we, as usual, isolated the statements and started to unfairly judge their fairness.