On the weekend, the fashion magazine Vogue India released a video starring Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone titled My Choice, claiming that the clip was an attempt to give Indian women an opportunity to voice “their choice for equality, be it social, political, economic, sexual”. A mere two days after it had been uploaded on YouTube, the clip had been viewed by more than 1.9 million people. But despite the video’s seemingly empowering message, delivered in the slick, staccato conventions of a cosmetic advertisement, there’s something terribly shallow about it. After all, any discussion of women’s empowerment is incomplete without questioning the structures that allow men to dominate our society. A mere emphasis on “choice” does nothing to dislodge male privilege.

It’s understandable that the clip limits itself to depicting choices available to urban, elite women. That, after all, is the demographic that Vogue represents. But even within this milieu, some of the propositions presented as choices are decided strange and seem to undermine the goal of women’s empowerment. For instance, by declaring that it is up to individual women to decide whether they want to be “size zero”, the filmmakers seem entirely oblivious that they are perpetrating unrealistic body images. They play directly into male fantasies about what women’s bodies should look like, and ignore the real concerns about anorexia that underpin the attempts by adult women to attain teenage bodies that fit into clothes that are size zero. (There is also the irony that very few of the women depicted in the video deviate from the desired “size-zero” norm.)

Similarly muddled is the simplistic assertion of the “choice” to have sex before marriage, outside marriage, or to not have sex at all. This purported freedom of sexual options actually means very little unless the structures of male domination are dismantled. Otherwise, it merely perpetuates the existing hypocrisy: that men enjoy the “choice” of sleeping around but women who exercise the same sexual autonomy are “sluts”.

Even more disturbing is the contention that the decision to love a man, or a woman, or both is a choice. This ignores the fact that sexual identities are things people are born with, not choices they make. This contention demeans the struggles of members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community for equality.

The things the Vogue India video fails to show are as important as the statements it chooses to make. For instance, it fails to acknowledge the institutionalised wage inequality between men and women, that the glass ceiling is a reality, that class and caste play a vital role in determining opportunities in India. It evades questions about the division of labour in homes, where women are conditioned to take responsibility for domestic chores. It side-steps acknowledgement of the fact that even when elite women are able to employ domestic workers to share these household chores, men are still excluded from this scheme of labour.

As the video reaches a climax, Padukone declares that her “choices are like her fingerprints”. It’s a copywriter-clever line that sounds good but means very little in a culture in which social and cultural norms combine to tightly bind the hands of most women.