"HeForShe" positive for feminists

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Kristina Wyman's picture
Kaitlyn Hirtle

“You might be thinking who is this Harry Potter girl, and what is she doing speaking at the UN?” Emma Watson said as she stood in front of the United Nations.

She wore a white dress and the background was all black. Watson’s voice shook and gave off a nervous air as she spoke.

On September 20, Emma Watson, goodwill ambassador for UN women, made a speech advocating a new campaign “HeforShe.”

The “HeforShe” campaign strives to get men involved in the fight for gender equality. The campaign focuses on men standing up for women’s rights.

“Feminism, by definition, is that men and women should have equal rights,” Watson said.

“This is the first campaign of its kind of the UN,” Watson began her speech. The key words being: “of the UN.”

This idea of male involvement in gender equality is not a new idea. Any feminist or any individual has realized that both genders undoubtedly need to be involved in order to reach equality.

Watson alluded to a speech made by Hilary Clinton in Beijing in 1997. In her speech, Clinton said, “Women’s rights are human rights.”

“These rights I consider to be human rights,” Watson said.

This idea of the involvement of both genders, again, is not new. What is new, is how the campaign is presented.

This UN speech by Watson was shared on Facebook, uploaded to YouTube and tweeted. The word got out much quicker and easier than when Clinton delivered her speech in 1997.

Watson was a strategic choice. She is an actress. Her speech was delivered modestly and innocently. She is a globally famous figure. Her fans and the media respect her. She presented her speech like a concerned human being, not a politician, unlike, Clinton, who delivered her speech like she was rallying up a team before the big game.

Watson appeals to a younger generation, a generation that is next in line for advocating change.

“My recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word,” Watson remarked, signifying that over time this word has changed, and false pretenses now surround it.

Watson extended “a formal invitation” to men to join the fight for gender equality. She addressed men’s rights as well. Towards the last half of her speech she brought into light the fact that men are scrutinized just as harshly as women by society.

“Gender equality is your issue too,” she said, referring to her male listeners. “I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent being valued less by society… I’ve seen young men suffering from mental illness, unable to ask for help, in fear it would make them less of a man.”

“If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive,” Watson stated.

Watson closed her speech by preaching that feminism is freedom. Feminism is equality. Feminism is acceptance.

“If not me, who? If not now, when?” Watson questioned.

These questions are fitting and inspiring. I fear though, as many things in the media are, it’s just a phase. It’s just another video to watch when procrastinating from homework.

This strategic plan of getting a relatable, young and current figure to preach the rights of women is a wonderful idea. Her speech reached many more than Clinton’s did in 1997.

This blast of feminism by Watson can be easily forgotten. The “HeforShe” website contains a much too brief summary on women’s rights and the role of men. There is little to the site but a pledge button.

In order to pledge, you have to check that you are a man who will “stand up for women’s rights,” type your name, select which country you are from and enter your email. Then you click ‘join.’ It seems so simple for such a complex issue. It seems too one sided for this fight, as Emma Watson presented as both genders coming together. Don’t let the idea of feminism drift out of your life as easily as it came in through social media.

Feminism needs to be thought about, and more importantly, acted on, long after the video has ended, you clicked ‘join’ on a website and clicked out of your browser.

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