On Sept. 20 actress Emma Watson gave a groundbreaking speech on gender inequality for the HeForShe campaign in the UK. HeForShe is a feminist campaign that encourages both men and women to join forces and fight against gender inequity.
Feminism is defined as, “[the belief] that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.” Feminism is often viewed as man-hating and man-bashing, and can sometimes make people squeamish and uncomfortable. Why is that?
Emma Watson made an undeniably bold statement while speaking about gender equality. She didn’t just speak on equality for women, but also equality for men. We don’t often think of men being victims of discrimination, but they are, just as much as women.
Watson said, “I see my father’s role as a parent being valued less by society, young men suffering from mental illness, afraid to ask for help, because it might make them seem like less than a man. I see men made fragile and insecure by a distorted sense of what constitutes male success.”
Feminism is about much more than fighting for women. Feminism is about fighting for equal rights period. Although feminism is usually constituted as an unpopular word, Watson’s speech may make you change your mind. She didn’t bash on men; she let them know that they are categorized just as much as women are. She relates to a speech Hillary Clinton articulated about feminism back in 1995, saying less than 30% of the audience was men. How are men supposed to fight for something when they don’t even feel a part of it?
Too often, we separate ourselves by gender. We exclude women from “rugged and rough” sports because we don’t want them to break a nail or get dirty. We exclude men from “women’s talk” because they just “wouldn’t understand.” Can’t a woman just enjoy a game of football, or a man talk about women’s issues? He came from a woman; he might have a sister, aunt, or girlfriend. Our issues are their issues too, and vice versa.
Watson makes valid points, connecting the idea of feminism to equality for all. She demands equal pay for women, equal education opportunities, an end to gender stereotypes, and letting women control the decisions about their bodies.
Speaking on men, Watson said, “When they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence.” When men are no longer subjected to imprisoning gender stereotypes such as aggression, rage, and ultimate control, women will feel the empowerment to not be victimized or controlled. Watson points out that men, just like women, have the undeniable right to feel sensitivity, vulnerability and freedom from the chains that stereotypes bring.
I hope that Emma Watson’s courageous speech against gender inequality will bring about change in this world. For so long, men and women have felt the constraints of gender inequality and stereotypes, and it is time, as a society, that we end these notions and abandon the idea of inequality between men and women.
“All I know is that I care about this problem and want to make it better,” Watson boldly said in her speech, resonating with millions of viewers. “If not me, then who? If not now, then when?”
Watch Emma Watson’s HeForShe speech on YouTube.