Ever since the telecast of the ‘Vogue Empower’ video of Deepika Padukone, women’s “liberation” has become a strong point of argument, analysis and debate. There are those who hated the video, others who loved it. There were some who found the video ‘liberating’, others who considered the video encapsulating – a wormhole into which women are pigeonholed and classified as beautiful creatures who should be bound to certain traditions.
But more than the whole controversy around the video, especially the lyrics- what is more baffling is the concept of liberation. What is freedom? Does freedom mean liberation? Can/Should an actress like Deepika Padukone define liberation for an Indian woman?
I once went to India Gate in Delhi at night with a friend. We were in the car, planning to get out, when a group of guys entered the car beside ours, and all of them kept their eyes glued on me.They kept looking at me, as if they had never seen a woman before in their life. While heading to India Gate, I felt “liberated” and happy that I could exercise my choice of travelling at night with a man in a car in a city like Delhi. But once I reached there, my liberation paved its way to insecurity. Even though those men were in the car beside mine, I still wanted to leave and go to a ‘secure’ location. My decision to feel free actually made me feel scared. I exercised my choice, but my choice made me repent.
This whole contradictory stance of society, especially Indian society, where women’s rights are an issue, but women’s security isn’t – is costing us dearly. While we have protests on the road, magazines writing about women’s rights, laws being enacted over molestation and laws being deliberated on marital rape- who can guarantee cent percent ‘security’ for every woman in the country?
While a Deepika Padukone teams up with Kapil Sibal and Homi Adjania to make a video on women’s empowerment & women’s right to exercise their “choices” – how far can we go with simple idealism? After all, there are some women out there who do get an opportunity to exercise their rights, but regret it because their rights have exposed them to the dirty side of society that prides itself in subjugating women to subordination.
I am not saying that Deepika Padukone is mistaken in making such a video. She is an actress, she needs publicity, she wants to stand up for a cause in her own way. I don’t blame her. We all are here on this planet, following our dreams, trying to set examples.
But this whole problem of security still bothers me. For a woman, security doesn’t mean having a man around like a bodyguard. Security has multiple levels – one can feel secure alone, secure in a crowd, secure without a crowd. But this feeling of security is lacking everywhere. I, as a woman, feel scared to walk into Chandni Chowk wearing a skirt. I can exercise my “choice” of wearing a skirt and entering Chandni Chowk, but can I feel liberated when I do that? I can’t, because liberation doesn’t mean a guarantee of security.
I don’t want to sound like a “meek woman” craving for security. After all, there is the police on the road, there are feminist men out there who want to protect women from the bad elements of society. When I complain too much, there are people present to tell me, “stop complaining and learn martial arts”, “carry pepper sprays”, “punch the guy in his balls”. I am aware that sitting and crying for something won’t change anything for me. But I want to understand how the whole argument of liberation will guarantee me security in India. How will it? I don’t have the answer, I am simply asking a question. Maybe some day someone will be able to provide me a constructive answer that can lead to the bridging of this gap.
Till then, Deepika Padukone can keep making her videos and Bollywood can keep churning out its item numbers – Bollywood actresses never really have to worry about walking on the streets on a daily basis anyways. And those who haven’t seen the Vogue empower video- take a look at it.