In The Mirror Of ‘My Choice’

April 8, 2015 at 9:15 PMApr (Activism, Media, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

In over one week lot of ink time and [at least] virtual space has been spent on ‘My Choice’ a short video done by Vogue in the name of women empowerment. The video which features Deepika Padukone and several others is directed by Homi Adajania based on a piece written by Kersi Khambatta.

A video as this couldn’t have been imagined in India before December 2012 and a response as this also wouldn’t have come prior to December 2012 though the reaction would have been more or less on the same lines.

A medical student being raped in Delhi on 16 Dec 2012 angered people like never before and mobilized massive protests on the streets of Delhi. Voice of protest and demand for justice came from several quarters of the country and media echoed these voices religiously, dutifully and vehemently.

Discussions and discourse on feminism, gender sensitivity, misogyny, patriarchy, masculinity, women liberation, oppression, moral policing occupied a seat in coffee shops, ice cream parlors, entered drawing rooms and became a part of common sense and daily lives.

Slowly we saw advertisements and cinema speaking of gender equality, depicting strong women and media reporting rape and sexual abuse incidents from across the country.

Just above two years after Dec 2012 and we see Vogue come up with My Choice short video which after initial celebration has been hammered heavily though the points of disagreement are varied.

As a response to the My Choice video by Vogue there have been counter-videos which are men’s version of My Choice, a husband’s version and dog’s version of My Choice. Many who have overall liked the video have objection to “sex outside marriage” being called a “choice.” There are also responses that critique the video saying it caters only to a certain section of the society.

In the mirror of ‘My Choice’ or the cracked mirror of ‘My Choice’ what we see is not just the aggressive masculine response but also the shallowness of post-December 2012 feminism and the setback it caused for feminism.

The wave of feminism that was created following December 2012 as a response to the Delhi rape did not expand its discourse of feminism much beyond sexual abuse, freedom to “go out anytime” and to “wear anything”. The discourse did not take patriarchy by its horns, shake the foundation of patriarchy and take the caste, class intersections seriously into its discourse and failed, to a large extent, identify capitalism as an antagonist too. As a result the feminist wave created became not just too urban centric but also very neo-liberal individualistic which appealed only to some privileged and did not envision changing the society fundamentally.

The movement remained a reaction, to a large extent, and did not turn itself effectively into solid action.

The media started reporting rapes and sexual abuse more than ever before. Though it is good, the way media held its discussions and debates and created a discourse around these rapes it reduced feminism majorly to fight against sexual abuse and feminism as a fight for freedom of uninterrupted mobility without any threat.

At the same time jargons like “Commodification” “Misogyny” gained currency but the discourse around it did not seem to go deep. The words did get used quite carelessly too in the sudden spur of reaction.

Lot of films that came after December 2012 though did not claim to be feminist did certainly encash on the gender sensitive pro-women temperament of the society. These films, like Queen, Highway, NH10 etc, reflect what the discourse of feminism had come to appear like and which majority of people bought. These films were very individualistic and spoke of privileged class girls and their personal journey which fought personal battles and did not subvert the patriarchal structure even by an inch.

The ads encashing on the gender sensitive sentiments encouraged consumerism in the name of feminism and sadly feminism did not take on capitalism enough.

Feminism in this point of history also imbibed a good amount of masculine aggression. So finally when the shallowness of this wave of feminism exposed itself with ‘My Choice’ the reaction that came from the male quarters was more aggressive than before.

The way in which men have responded to ‘My Choice’ is troubling because it appears like the masculine aggression is more than before now. The video hoping to empower women unintentionally seem to have strengthened patriarchy and masculine aggression. The actual struggle for gender equality and women empowerment seem to have gotten a blow from the shallowness of the post-December 2012 feminist discourse.

While not acknowledging the fact that choice is also a privilege, a luxury ‘My Choice’ is again a very neo-liberal capitalist idea of feminism which does not aspire to change the world fundamentally and only seeks the liberty within the existing system to enjoy some of the privileges.

The actual tragedy of times is that a good number of sections which is critiquing ‘My Choice’ for its shallowness and its limited inclusiveness are on the same side, opposite of ‘My Choice’, as the right wing conservative regressive and also the male response which is high on sperm.

Though it looks like there is a setback on feminist movement now, it certainly is no failure. A good number of responses to ‘My Choice’ do speak against it from a radical point of view critiquing the neo-liberal nature of it and its upper class upper caste urban centric gaze. A more radical feminism, which has been there always, has now entered the centre stage which was till now occupied by the ‘My Choice’ kind of feminism.

We are one step closer to a new world, it appears.

[Even as I express these thoughts I am skeptical of what I think because I dont know to what extent these thoughts stem from the yet unfinished project/ process of scrubbing off the patriarchy in me and the voice is that of the ‘man’ in me.]

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