Thursday, April 16, 2015

Feminism is in Vogue

Yes, feminism is in vogue. It's the talk of the town and the hottest topic these days. That's a good thing of course. The more you talk about it, the more awareness you raise and the more people strive for women empowerment.
A women's magazine would generally cater to women, but all women are not alike and hence, they tend to concentrate on the most reachable section of the population. While I have no doubt that all kinds of women read all likes of magazines and watch all kinds of TV shows, I'm going to make some generalisations which I'm sure many of you would scream and shout saying I'm stereotyping. Well guess what, stereotypes exist because statistics say so and as long as I'm not stereotyping a single person, I think I'm alright. I digress. Women's magazines, I don't think have many working women as their readers. Working women may read them, but not fully or not with the same vigour as stay at home women or young teenagers do, only because they have less time than the latter two groups. So what magazines would like to do is connect with the those that read their product most.
As unfortunate as it may be, it is hard for a woman of 40 who has stayed at home all her life apart from schooling, to say I want to start a boutique or I want to go back to college or I will not cook for a month or I will walk away from this marriage. That is something we need to change. But a women's magazine (or a TV soap), which is the most uniquely positioned to change this point of view, also needs to make money and cannot expect a woman to stay loyal to the product if it constantly preaches to them especially if it ends up highlighting their helplessness rather than empowering them.
Easiest way to keep loyalty is to connect with them. Yes, feminism and women empowerment are in vogue these days. Everyone is taking about it. And if you aren't, you are left behind. But you can't really empower these women because that means a lot of work and sacrifice advertising revenues from certain products like fairness creams. But you still need to talk about it. So you do, you tell your readers that they are empowered. Make your choices, whatever it may be. And include all the phrases taken out of the agony aunt section because those are real problems real women have and you are telling them you connect with their problems. (It's surprising how many of the agony aunt questions hover around sexual issues and relationship issues like infidelity).
And that is what Vogue India did with their Vogue Empower campaign.
They are capitalising on Indian women's need to empowered without having to really sacrifice their revenues.  So that's why it ends up sounding hollow and like a teenagers rebellious statements.
Deepika Padukone is just an actor who is getting paid to do the ad. Personally, she may be glad in doing her part and happy to be doing this than endorsing some slimming cereal, but she will not sacrifice her other endorsements and livelihood.
But at the end of the day, she is acting for Vogue and not making any of those statements herself. As a child I firmly believed that Tendulkar drank Boost everyday. But now that I have grown up, I know Amitabh Bachchan probably never ate Dabur Chyawanprash or certainly none of the popular heroines use Lux soap. While I have long debated that the actors may act in commercials but one should not be allowed to appear as oneself and endorse a brand that one does not use, that's not the way the law is. So if you don't expect Deepika to use Liril, you can't hold the Vogue ad as her own statements. (Unless she actually says so herself)
In spite of all this, I'm glad Vogue has this campaign. They didn't get it perfectly right. But it's better than a bunch of stylish super-thin models with unaffordable handbags walking around. We as a society are trying to change, so is Vogue. And I'm glad for that. Let's applaud the effort rather than criticise the result. More importantly they are getting better. Let's start with the boys, as Madhuri Dixit says (as an actor for Vogue India)!
PS: I don't think it would have made so much news if it didn't have the statement about infidelity. If the film maker thought any publicity is good publicity, it's ingenious.

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