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Kriti Sanon’s new video on International Women’s Day went viral. But guess what? We’re not done talking. We need to talk – and act!
Tokenism marked International Women’s Day for the most part, and many women I know have agreed to this. Be it those countless offers that sailed on a tide that capitalized International Women’s Day, or those myriad pledges taken to raise the bar on worldwide activism for women’s rights and parity that all turned into pumpkins at midnight, this was clearly the way we were willing to go.
One of those riding the tide in all of this was Kriti Sanon, and her clothing brand that she co-created with Anjana Reddy – Ms. Taken. The video comprises the currently famous way of video-based storytelling using banners and facial expressions to convey a message, and begins with a rather happy looking Kriti, whose expressions turn to anger and then to disgruntlement, as she shoves the last of the sheets before walking out of the frame. The sheets, by the way, start with the perfunctory women’s day greeting, and end in “All we do is talk, and I’m done talking.”
In between, we find some great feminist SEO keywording happening: girl power, women’s rights, gender equality, unsafe streets, rock solid glass ceilings, others deciding what a woman is to wear. Before you raise your eyebrows, I’ll tell you why I chose to call this just that. What Kriti’s video does is truly to turn video virality on its head to feed into capitalism.
Kriti definitely does make you think. No doubt. It’s true that what we’re doing is to really just talk – but here’s the part she doesn’t tell you. The brand she’s representing showed up almost silently, as if it were watching the video over your shoulder, only to tell you, “Hey, check me out online, now that you see my name there.” The video went viral – and it’s only representative of the fact that the feminist dialogues that many of us are working hard to keep alive, is now being used to springboard capitalism. Like Alex Holder wrote in The Guardian, it is indeed true that sex doesn’t sell anymore, activism does.
I’m not saying Kriti can’t have her views. I’m no one to say that. I’m not saying that Kriti or her brand is not allowed to have a statement to share on the state of women in the world. What I’m saying is that if the actor and the brand is about making the language of feminism work for them, they must step up and get onto the dialogue that works to achieve its goals and ends.
Kriti mentions in her video that women are still told what to wear. Body positivity is a huge part of feminism, and fashion can be a great vehicle to talk about these things. But zilch. Not a word from her brand. Instead, you have a slew of women with a singular body type and skin tone modelling the clothes from her brand – normalizing the mainstream agenda of the fashion industry that emanates from patriarchal roots. This constant reassertion of how you should look through the brand, quite like most other brands one finds online – is hardly empowering to women.
It’s great that Kriti is enterprising and is standing on her own two feet, but it’s not great that she’s doing this while reasserting a prototype that we’re all so desperately fighting. This feeds perfectly into capitalism – because for capitalism, feminism is reduced to choice without any regard to intersectionality.
Moreover, if Kriti is talking about the sexism that continues to prevail, that streets are unsafe, she should also recognize that she is part of an industry that normalizes these things. She talks of how our streets are unsafe. But why ignore the fact that one of the biggest fuels for these unsafe streets remains the toxic masculinity that Bollywood and most product-shoot ad films endorse? Case in point being that she has never denounced the sexism and body shaming that the Parachute Jasmine ad she featured in offered up for audiences. She never questioned the homophobic and sexist language in Dilwale. Agreed, Kriti is a relative newcomer and it can be daunting to question established structures alone – but that’s the point, exactly – silence is abetment. She talks of glass ceilings being rock solid. Why isn’t she vocally questioning unequal pay?
Speaking of girl power and women’s rights – Kriti recently did an ad film for the ACE Group along with Harshali, the little girl most of us know from Bajrangi Bhaijaan. In the ad, Harshali asks Kriti if a girl has to leave home when she marries, and Kriti says yes without batting an eyelid. Harshali proceeds to say she will never marry because she doesn’t want to leave home or her friends. Kriti proceeds to make light of it all and tells her that when she would be married off, it would be on the condition that the family would have to buy a flat in the same premises. Way to sell a flat in an apartment complex! Turns out you get internalized patriarchy free, and a shot at derailing the personal agency of a woman, however young or old she may be. So… what was that about girl power and women’s rights, again?
Speak, Kriti. By all means, speak. And then, act. We need to act after we talk. How about we keep speaking, and take action? The patriarchy is a monster and it affects you as it affects me as it affects women around the world. Let’s not be “done talking”.
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Top image is a screenshot from the video