Thoughts of the Day

HeForShe- Gender Equality for Everyone

Over the years, I’ve come to consider myself a feminist. I’m very proud to be a feminist because I am proud to stand up for equality. Equality for women means Equality for all. Feminism isn’t just for women because equality isn’t just for women. While here in the US, we are still striving for gender equality in the workforce and in everyday life, there are some countries around the world where women are still not allowed to receive a secondary education and thus treated as secondary citizens. Knowing that these things are still happening to women, may make it make seem like gender equality is a women’s issue and a women’s issue alone. That is far from the truth. As women, we cannot have equality without men. For female equality includes male equality. We cannot be one without the other, for we are not a part of humanity without the other. Men can and should concern themselves with gender equality because it is their issue too. An equal world for our daughters is an equal world for our sons. Join the HeForShe campaign and help create a better future. One where both men and women can be strong and vulnerable, can be brave and scared, can be human beings.

What is HeForShe, you might ask? HeForShe is a “campaign led by UN Women in which men all over the world are being encouraged to speak out against the inequalities faced by women and girls”. I recently heard about the HeForShe campaign when the internet exploded with all things Emma Watson and her amazing speech at the UN conference this past week. She gives a brilliant overview of the campaign and the many reasons why gender equality is not just a woman’s issue.

Here’s her full speech that was featured on Buzzfeed:

Today we are launching a campaign called “HeForShe.” I am reaching out to you because I need your help. We want to end gender inequality—and to do that we need everyone to be involved.

This is the first campaign of its kind at the UN: we want to try and galvanize as many men and boys as possible to be advocates for gender equality. And we don’t just want to talk about it, but make sure it is tangible.

I was appointed six months ago and the more I have spoken about feminism the more I have realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop.
For the record, feminism by definition is: “The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.”

I started questioning gender-based assumptions when at eight I was confused at being called “bossy,” because I wanted to direct the plays we would put on for our parents—but the boys were not.

When at 14 I started being sexualized by certain elements of the press.

When at 15 my girlfriends started dropping out of their sports teams because they didn’t want to appear “muscly.”

When at 18 my male friends were unable to express their feelings.

I decided I was a feminist and this seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word.
Apparently I am among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating, anti-men and, unattractive.

Why is the word such an uncomfortable one?

I am from Britain and think it is right that as a woman I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decision-making of my country. I think it is right that socially I am afforded the same respect as men. But sadly I can say that there is no one country in the world where all women can expect to receive these rights.

No country in the world can yet say they have achieved gender equality.
These rights I consider to be human rights but I am one of the lucky ones. My life is a sheer privilege because my parents didn’t love me less because I was born a daughter. My school did not limit me because I was a girl. My mentors didn’t assume I would go less far because I might give birth to a child one day. These influencers were the gender equality ambassadors that made who I am today. They may not know it, but they are the inadvertent feminists who are. And we need more of those. And if you still hate the word—it is not the word that is important but the idea and the ambition behind it. Because not all women have been afforded the same rights that I have. In fact, statistically, very few have been.

In 1997, Hilary Clinton made a famous speech in Beijing about women’s rights. Sadly many of the things she wanted to change are still a reality today.
But what stood out for me the most was that only 30 per cent of her audience were male. How can we affect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation?

Men—I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue too.

Because to date, I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent being valued less by society despite my needing his presence as a child as much as my mother’s.

I’ve seen young men suffering from mental illness unable to ask for help for fear it would make them look less “macho”—in fact in the UK suicide is the biggest killer of men between 20-49; eclipsing road accidents, cancer and coronary heart disease. I’ve seen men made fragile and insecure by a distorted sense of what constitutes male success. Men don’t have the benefits of equality either.

We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see that that they are and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence.

If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled.

Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong… It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum not as two opposing sets of ideals.

If we stop defining each other by what we are not and start defining ourselves by what we are—we can all be freer and this is what HeForShe is about. It’s about freedom.
I want men to take up this mantle. So their daughters, sisters and mothers can be free from prejudice but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too—reclaim those parts of themselves they abandoned and in doing so be a more true and complete version of themselves.

You might be thinking who is this Harry Potter girl? And what is she doing up on stage at the UN. It’s a good question and trust me I have been asking myself the same thing. I don’t know if I am qualified to be here. All I know is that I care about this problem. And I want to make it better.

And having seen what I’ve seen—and given the chance—I feel it is my duty to say something. English statesman Edmund Burke said: “All that is needed for the forces of evil to triumph is for enough good men and women to do nothing.”

In my nervousness for this speech and in my moments of doubt I’ve told myself firmly—if not me, who, if not now, when. If you have similar doubts when opportunities are presented to you I hope those words might be helpful.

Because the reality is that if we do nothing it will take 75 years, or for me to be nearly a hundred before women can expect to be paid the same as men for the same work. 15.5 million girls will be married in the next 16 years as children. And at current rates it won’t be until 2086 before all rural African girls will be able to receive a secondary education.
If you believe in equality, you might be one of those inadvertent feminists I spoke of earlier.

And for this I applaud you.

We are struggling for a uniting word but the good news is we have a uniting movement. It is called HeForShe. I am inviting you to step forward, to be seen to speak up, To be the he for she. And to ask yourself if not me, who, if not now when.

Thank you.

-Emma Watson

She spoke and she moved mountains and so can you. So to all you men out there, join HeForShe and join the “solidarity movement for gender equality”.

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3 thoughts on “HeForShe- Gender Equality for Everyone”

    1. Thank you so very much for proving her point that gender inequality still exists. You’ve made an astute observation and I applaud you. You and many other people in society seem to believe that when a woman dresses feminine, i.e. “wearing makeup and a dress”, that they are somehow inferior to their male counterparts or, as you so finely put it, “look[s] like a submissive little girl”. You obviously meant to say that she should have worn, say a pant suit, then she might have been taken seriously by the people to whom she is speaking. Or better yet, if she were a man who would have been taken seriously and, most important of all, her fashion choices would not have even been mentioned because people would have been busy listening to the actual speech she was making. I’m sorry to say that you have seem to have missed a very important point: she is not a man and she is not wearing a pantsuit. She is a woman wearing makeup and a dress. And that very woman is demanding the same rights as men and is inviting men to help make this happen, because without them progress will continue to be at a standstill. She, nor should any woman, myself included, have to change the way she dresses in order to be taken seriously or be respected by men, other women, or society.

      In taking from the blog post, entitled “What Modest Female Clothing Looks Like”, that you so kindly shared with me, I noticed something very interesting. Your use of “I much prefer women (and people in general) who respect themselves and who respect the people around them” is a wonderful sentiment, indeed. However, your comment about Emma looking like a “submissive little girl” in what I would call a very conservative dress for the occasion, does not exude the respect that you claim to prefer in people, or women in particular.

      I will say it again. You have proved her point that gender inequality is alive and well. I will leave you with this one thing: once gender equality happens, fashion choices will be the least of our worries.

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