by Ciara Dossett
Emma Watson’s recent speech on feminism at the UN headquarters in New York has attracted much attention in the media. She launched their new campaign “HeforShe”, inviting both men and women to conquer gender inequality. This made many question whether feminism is for men too and whether men are discriminated against also.
Feminism is defined as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes”. Although this seems like a perfectly logical belief, feminism has become a negative word in the media due to its connotations. Many people stereotypically believe feminists to be bra-burning, male hating, unattractive women. Many celebrities, such as Beyonce, have been forced to defend the “F word” in the media, showing how it is not to be afraid of.
Conversely, Joss Wheedon suggested at Make Equality Reality Week that we should rebrand “feminist” as “genderist”. Although this might seem ridiculous, not only does it lessen the prejudice against those who identify themselves as feminists but it also encompasses men in the issue of gender equality. Nonetheless Watson argues that the word describing gender equality is not important but “it’s the idea and the ambition behind it”.
In her speech Emma Watson presented us with the alarming fact that the highest killer of men aged between 20 and 49 is suicide. She argued that this suggested that men feel uncomfortable to identify themselves as weak or scared, as they believe it is not considered to be masculine.
Furthermore, it is not only women who are disrespected on social media. On Tumblr, on searching “Men are” you will discover that the top 3 results are “stupid”, “pigs” and “idiots”. Moreover men are arguably sexualised as well as women, with many asking why is it deemed acceptable for women to goggle at topless men but as soon as a man does the same to a women he is labelled as a sexist?
Although feminism has been a battle fought by women since the suffragettes surfaced, for several years groups of men have been lending a hand in the fight. The “White Ribbon Campaign”, a campaign urging men to stand up to other males disrespecting women, is a perfect example of men supporting feminism. Similarly Jason Katz, an anti-sexism educator, believes that men have an important role to play in feminism. He argues that “We need more men with the guts, with the courage, with the strength, with the moral integrity to break our complicit silence and challenge each other and stand with women and not against them”. Watson agreed with this statement in her speech by asking “how can we affect change in the world when only half of it is invited?”, showing how she believed men should also be encouraged to support feminist issues.
By no means should the feminist movement as a whole be ridiculed. It still has such a long way to go, with many women not receiving the same pay as their male counterparts and many other women still not receiving any form of education. Similarly, as many of you will know, some men still deserve to be called misogynists. Watson said “there is no one country in the world where all women can expect to receive their rights”.
However, although there are a plethora of issues involving sexism against women, there are also those involving men. This is why the “HeforShe” campaign is such a proficient idea, as not only does it cover feminist issues but also the problems faced by men.
Despite the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, patronisingly joking that Watson has “been waving a magic wand”, Emma Watson eloquently presented the campaign in a way that appealed to both men and women. She states “that both men and women should feel free to be strong” and, whatever word you would like to use to describe gender equality, this is the most important concept.
See, also, Hattie Hammans' article, HeforShe: A Turning Point for Gender Equality