If you live in India, you’ve probably seen the Vogue India Ad starring Deepika Padukone, by now. In the ad (see below), Deepika boldly states choices she’s allowed to make as a woman, without your consent: “To marry or not to marry, my choice. To have sex before marriage or outside of marriage, my choice.”
Since yesterday, “Deepika Padukone” and “Vogue” have been trending on Twitter and Facebook. Men and women are sharing the video in the name of “feminism”, “gender equality” and “female empowerment”. Is it really feminism to proclaim a right to choices without speaking of consequences? Is it truly gender equality when a similar ad from GQ would probably be viewed as outrageous? And is it really female empowerment when a bunch of different women are laughing/ dancing/ staring at a camera while Ms Padukone spews endless, incoherent sentences in the background?
Can, what is essentially a women’s fashion magazine, claim feminism as brand positioning? A part of me wants to say no. Feminism should probably be left to something like, sanitary napkins, a product that faces a taboo that actually needs dispelling. But then again, fashion magazines are also considered taboo by certain sections of society. So, why can’t Vogue India claim feminism for its brand? Because, to claim feminism as your brand position, you have to show an established pattern of behaviour that co-relates to your position. When Vogue India regularly features women of all shapes and sizes on their cover, they can claim feminism. When they stop advocating brighter skin, they can claim feminism. When they don’t promote anti-ageing routines for twenty-somethings, they can claim feminism.
But of course, all Brand Positioning isn’t historical. In many cases, it’s aspirational. If Vogue India is aspiring to feminism, then when they champion female education charities, or help young girls love their bodies the way they are, or just stop propagating unrealistic beauty standards, I will retract this post and allow Vogue India their claim.
I will give Vogue credit where credit is due though. For whatever short time this ad trends, Vogue’s got a section of India talking about female empowerment. And that is certainly a laudable achievement. So, till the next entertaining cricket match takes its spot, let’s give #VogueEmpower its due.
A Word to Women
Think. Don’t let empty words, black and white images and pointlessly-gratifying hashtags cloud your wonderful, sharp minds. Use this as a platform to make yourself heard. Raise your objections and help people break through the shallow surface of this conversation to the real issues hampering gender equality. Let’s advise the need for education and cultural change over and over.
You can choose to keep the momentum going by simply talking about it (like I have) or you can go further and think of actionable projects. That is your choice. And if the ad spoke out to you and you want to defend it, that’s your choice as well. You’re stirring the conversation, go ahead and do it. I urge you, do something. Say something. Or maybe don’t. It’s your choice.