Vogue empowers women; starts with the boys

A 2-minute film by MD of Conde Nast India Alex Kuruvilla & director Vinil Mathew shows how domestic abuse can be addressed at early stages by changing the way we raise boys

e4m by Aditi Raval
Updated: Nov 8, 2014 10:36 AM
Vogue empowers women; starts with the boys

Vogue India launched a social awareness initiative to celebrate its 7th anniversary in India, a campaign that involves the magazine, social media, digital and offline platforms to deliver the message of empowering women – It starts with you.

Latest in the series of #VogueEmpower videos, #StartWithTheBoys a short film conceptualised by Ogilvy India is centred around the theme ‘Boys Don’t Cry’, featuring Bollywood actress Madhuri Dixit. The short film has been produced by MD of Conde Nast India Alex Kuruvilla along with director Vinil Mathew.

The core message is that when we teach boys not to do something like a girl, (e.g. boys don’t cry), it is imprinted in their minds that certain sensitive or even insignificant things are a girl’s domain and boys are not to behave like them. Growing up, these boys express their views through aggression, don’t consider women as their equals and resort to violence to make a point.

The video depicts several instances in a boy’s life where he starts to cry and is chided by his parents, elders and friends, who all say ‘Boys don’t cry’, whether it’s a little boy being sent to school,  being taught how to swim against his wishes, being taken to a doctor’s office, a teenaged boy winning a football match, or even a young boy who is heartbroken after a relationship ends.

Towards the end of the video, a boy is shown on the verge of tears when he is shown twisting a girl’s arm and leaving her on the floor after an incident of domestic abuse.

Madhuri Dixit comments in the end, “We teach our boys not to cry. It’s time we teach them not to make girls cry.”
The video ends with the message, ‘Start with the boys’.

“The idea of the film is centred around the fundamental truth that women's empowerment is not about women alone, which is why I pledged to create a short film that communicates clearly the need to change the mindset of boys before they become men," says Kuruvilla.

The film has been shot adeptly throughout with the message clearly getting across, how young boys are constantly taught not to cry, implying it is something a girl does, and is not becoming of a man. Along similar lines, one even expects that the film is going to be about gender equality culminating into the insight that it is allowed for boys to do that which is traditionally ‘accredited’ to girls, i.e. ‘cry’ and express their sensitive side openly. But suddenly towards the end, you find that it is about gender equality, but only from the perspective of domestic abuse.

The video attempts to address the traditional societal fallacy that exists in India. Men are taught to be strong, face challenges as well as adversity, without crying like a girl. However, that is a regressive approach towards gender perception since it weakens the woman’s identity in eyes of a man, making her appear helpless, fragile and susceptible to falling into pieces in face of traumatic or emotional incidents. The video focuses on communicating that such age-old clichés should be completely eradicated and rather than teaching a boy how not to be like a girl, it is perhaps better to teach him to not treat girls with disrespect.

The fact that ‘there is nothing wrong with the act of crying, members of both genders are inclined to it’ only comes across as a distant subtext of the motif.

What is clearly evident is that at no point does the video make an attempt to show the female gender to be equally strong as the male gender. In the instances shown in the video, it is almost a given that society already sees women as weak, likely to cry at the drop of a hat. It doesn’t seem like it was the filmmakers’ or the admaker’s priority to show that girls can be equally strong as men when put in a tough situation but to highlight the change needed in men’s outlook of women. Since the thought emerges from ‘start with the boys’, the story follows that theme stringently and masterfully delivers the core message.

You can watch the video here

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