Back in September, Emma Watson made her first speech as the U.N.’s newly appointed Women Goodwill Ambassador. She called for men around the world to come together and support women and their quest for equality, thus moving the spotlight for the feminist movement from lifelong, inspirational women advocates back over to some men.
This is only highlighting just how much more weight a man’s opinion has than a woman’s in today’s society. The entire campaign is unnecessary and, while any positive light brought to this cause is good for the movement, this is not revolutionary in any form, and not exactly helpful. Why go to men when many women across the world still aren’t on board? “Feminist” is still a dirty word and men and celebrities spontaneously finding respect for the movement shouldn’t be the catalyst to changing that.
A throng of famous, rich men (finally) stood up and declared support for feminists—Well, not exactly. A throng of famous, rich men got a piece a paper, wrote down the hashtag for HeforShe, took a picture with it, and posted it to twitter with maybe a full sentence of explanation. Perhaps the most annoying part of these ego-fueled displays would be the unnecessary and trite defense of “I’m a son to a mother,” or “I have a daughter of my own!” Well good for you, gentlemen, but is that really what it takes for you to display respect and common decency for women as whole? Because it really should not be.
A big problem lies with the education of those rushing to support this platform. These men know very little of the struggle faced by women—who are not Emma Watson—across the globe. If they did, they’d realize a piece of paper and feigned support for the next big movement would certainly not suffice.
Even Watson’s own path to finding feminism is one tinged with privilege. She recalls being called “bossy” in school, and it would be that which would catapult her into her passion for women’s rights, after questioning “gender-based assumptions”. This is not meant to discredit Watson completely; she’s a well-spoken, educated woman who is using that and her fame to raise awareness for a campaign that is important to not only her, but the world as a whole. It’s simply that if something groundbreaking is going to happen, groundbreaking effort has to go into it. With such a large issue, half-hearted attempts at raising awareness aren’t going to help much of anyone.
Watson, though, has the right idea in her approach. She wants to dissociate the word feminist (and the movement itself) from the idea that it’s just a wild congregation of man-haters bent on destroying patriarchal society and would want nothing more than to rid the world of men all together. It’s important for those uneducated in the issue to understand that’s not what it’s about at all, and that it is rather a campaign for gender equality—something that does not exist in our current time. The world is a much, much less safe place to be on every level if you’re a woman.
Proving this of course would be the men threatening to kill Watson for simply making this less-than-revolutionary speech. Men and their fragile egos should not be what Watson chooses to cater to during her break into advocacy, because the need for a man’s approval is contrary to the entire movement.