Let’s give a quick standing ovation for Emma Watson, shall we? Her speech at the United Nations from September 20th — launching the UN Women’s #HeForShe, a rallying cry to unite men and women in the fight for gender equality — has lit a bit of a fire across the Internet, reigniting the discussion around the misinformation surrounding the word “feminist” and what it means in our society right now. And in doing so, reminding the world of its initial mission once more: to make gender equality a reality for all of us — not just women. Not just men. But everyone. Because admit it: we’re better together, and stronger when a more empathetic understanding of the mission of feminism is the rule, not the exception, to the perception.
Lots of people have already discussed the speech’s merits at length — there are enough within it to spark a thousand thinkpieces on the matter. Still, some don’t believe feminism has a place at the world issues table — as evidenced by the disgusting and unacceptable behaviors of those behind #EmmaYouAreNext. There is a lot of fear surrounding the word “feminism” and “feminist,” and it almost 100% relates to the insidious inequality men also face, thanks to the idea of “masculinity.” Until we — all of us, every single one of us — understand that these weird, antiquated junk boxes filled with expectations and labels for people are more hinderance than help, there will never be equality for anyone.
“It is time that we all see gender as a spectrum instead of two sets of opposing ideals,” remarked Watson in the speech, highlighting the initiative’s inclusive nature, asking men to join the conversation and effect more progressive change. “We should stop defining each other by what we are not, and start defining ourselves by who we are.”
To tell a man they must “man up” or “have balls” is just as harmful as the standards forced upon women. It tells us there’s some inherent way to be that’s tied to what junk we have between our legs. It’s nothing more than limiting to us as humans. It’s like Watson stated: “I want men to take up this mantle so their daughters, sisters and mothers can be free from prejudice but also so their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human, too and in doing so, be a more true and complete version of themselves.”
For many, it may have been hard to see that this was always the point of the movement — perhaps all the misconceptions and preconceived notions being bandied about hindered that. But, as Watson noted in her speech, “fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. … [T]his has to stop.” Through adhering to these divisions of the sexes — failure in the search for equality has been unavoidable, and nobody has “won” anything because of it.
Instead, these ideals have done nothing more than pit man and woman against one another. And even more harmfully, it’s allowed the pervasive continuation of the idea that boys still need to be told things like ‘men don’t cry, they must be strong, they should not feel,’ while girls are told their value comes from looks, submission, and an ability to acquiesce others’ needs before your own. Holding onto these frankly antiquated divisions as a way to find some quote-unquote normal way of doing things is a fallacy at best. To think things are anything less than a myriad shades of grey is the inherent flaw in the human system.
The truth is, we as a species have evolved past all that — this isn’t the ’50s anymore, folks — and within us all there is far more. More emotion, more understanding, more possibility: all of it meaningless when limited by gender roles and social stereotypes. But when it’s set free? Magic. There’s a reason that, for all the misguided, disgusting, unacceptable hatred being tossed Watson’s way because of the speech, there are thousands more — celebrity, everyday person, or otherwise — that has rallied around her in support.
— Simon Pegg (@simonpegg) September 23, 2014
— Felicia Day (@feliciaday) September 23, 2014
Emma Watson's UN speech on gender equality is amazing & inspiring. http://t.co/dcmfl9zDXr
— Grant Gustin (@grantgust) September 23, 2014
Which is why there’s such a need for #HeForShe — especially right now. Even a simple tweet showing your solidarity proves that there’s more hope than hopelessness in the fight for human equality. Getting educated, showing your care — all of it helps to drown out the tired roar of misogyny and the patriarchy that’s keeping all of us — men and women — down.
What did you think of Watson’s speech? Let us hear your thoughts in the comments.
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