The HeForShe campaign initiated by the United Nations in 2014 was conceptualised as an inclusive fight against gender inequality, by encouraging men and people of all genders to participate as agents of change for a cause that was otherwise primarily regarded as a struggle restricted to women alone. With an aim to eliminate negative gender stereotypes and behaviours, the campaign recognised the pitfalls of gender inequality on not just women, but men as well.

The 3rd edition of the Lux Golden Rose Awards, celebrating 90 years of the brand, came out in support of the HeForShe campaign to stand in solidarity for gender equality, by celebrating “The most beautiful women in Bollywood”. At first glance (or possibly not even then) it may seem like Bollywood has finally opened its eyes to the gender disparity it has been turning a blind eye to since decades, but the award ceremony proves otherwise.

While the HeForShe campaign has itself received criticism for pandering to men’s ego by laying too much emphasis on bringing men’s participation to the forefront, rather than encouraging them to maintain an auxiliary position; and the obvious exclusion of a wide spectrum of genders, the Lux family has turned the already flawed campaign into a mockery of unbelievable proportions.

The only part of the campaign the awards seem to have focused on is accentuating men’s role, while eliminating the cause completely. With an all-men panel of hosts, the only role left for the women is walking up to the stage and collecting awards for profound categories like Iconic Beauty Award, Breakthrough beauty of the year, Emerging Beauty of the year, Confident beauty of the year, and many more, all attached, forcibly, to movies of the respective winners, under the pretext of appreciating their talent and not just their beauty.

The HeForShe campaign has itself received criticism for pandering to men’s ego by laying too much emphasis on bringing men’s participation to the forefront.

While Shahrukh Khan, simply through his charm manages to appear less obnoxious, Varun Dhawan and Akshay Kumar  – Modi’s pet child for all issues women, are absolutely repulsive. One may even be able to write off the former’s comments, “She says what’s in her heart and follows up on it as well, and there are not many men who can do that as well” as a naïve attempt to ride the feminist wave, unsuccessfully so under the influence of social conditioning, but Kumar’s set grows progressively regressive and reaffirms the stereotypes that the campaign is trying to eliminate.

He begins by laying stress on the role ‘strong women’ play in making the family and the nation strong, thus pigeonholing them in the age old domestic sphere. He then moves on to a do a gig on “what women mean when they say something”. In this incredibly cringe-worthy interaction with members of the audience, not only does the mighty Mr. Kumar force his clichéd, almost Whatsapp-forward-worthy interpretations down our throats, but also dismisses the two women, Alia Bhatt and Jacqueline Fernandes, who stand up against, what the writers probably believe are jokes. So we are led to believe that when women say “Come back soon”, what they actually mean is “Don’t go at all” because this is what the flag-bearer of women’s issues interprets it as, damned be the women who correct him.

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Also read: Gender Bender: How India Discovered Gender Role Reversal Through Pop Culture

A Bollywood award night would be incomplete without women putting in their fair share towards misogyny. Kajol, for instance, with a single statement “Soch samaj ke poochna, remember who I’m married to” (Think before asking…) manages to downgrade all the work women have put in towards establishing agency and autonomy. Additionally, by brown-nosing Akshay Kumar’s ego through her answers, she endorses the stereotype of a two-faced woman.

The Shahrukh Khans, Akshay Kumars, and Varun Dhawans are barely capable of maintaining the façade of agents of change, let alone empower women.

What cause would feminists fight for if women like Kajol didn’t use her husband’s name to instil fear on national television. How else would we reiterate our position as the weaker sex, who need the protection of the men in their lives. How else can we portray ourselves as submissive and voiceless- as displayed by Kajol when she received the award for Timeless Jodi with none other than Shahrukh Khan  – when she chose to let her on-screen ‘better’ half talk on her behalf.

The Lux Golden Rose Awards are proof that beauty product companies should stick to doing what they do best, promoting superficial and unrealistic beauty standards towards creating a narrow-minded society. Furthermore, any collaboration with Bollywood is bound to take the feminist movement only a step backwards. The Shahrukh Khans, Akshay Kumars, and Varun Dhawans are barely capable of maintaining the façade of agents of change, let alone empower women by demanding equal pay, better roles and substantial screen time.

Also read: Can Bollywood Award Shows Be A Site For A Campaign Like Time’s Up?

Instead of this farce, Lux can perhaps focus on creating innovative categories like Gorgeous beauty of the decade, International beauty (how else will you include Priyanka Chopra), Fragrant beauty or go all out and attach itself to the Men’s Rights Movement with categories like Obedient beauty of the century, 36-24-36 beauty, Adarsh bahu beauty (to accommodate all the newly wed actors), so feminists are prepared for the outcome.

Featured Image Source: Something Haute

About the author(s)

Dhwani is an architect, writer and assistant professor at Balwant Sheth School of Architecture, NMIMS. She has an MA in Women’s Studies and identifies as a professional dog-cuddler.

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  1. Ugh, can’t believe this pageant of puke! I had no idea such awards existed. For Lux and Bollywood to have made it into an entire program of self-congratulation and regressive posturing is appalling. As 2018 ends, men who claim to be heforshe, please do two things: (1) research gender wage gap and fight for equal pay—turn down jobs that don’t pay women the same. Put the inclusive clause in your contracts. (2) Please ask eery women you know, are related to, if she’s been passed over professionally, or been groped, harassed or assaulted. Ask you mothers, aunts, sisters, wives, daughters in particular. And sit down.

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