You may know her as the intelligent Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series or the ditzy Nicki in The Bling Ring, but for now, Emma Watson is playing the role of herself as a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. On September 20th, 2014, Watson launched her campaign for gender equality, “HeforShe,” at the Model UN Headquarters in New York City. She delivered a speech in front of an audience of international delegates and representatives, specifically addressing the general population of men. Watson discussed the negative connotations of the word “feminist,” how supporters are often categorized as aggressive or anti-men, and the lack of male supporters towards gender equality.
Watson’s primary goal in “HeforShe” is to gain male support and involvement by opening up to the issue of men lacking the benefit of equality as well. She described the general purpose of “HeforShe” as an “opportunity to extend a formal invitation [to men]. Gender equality is [their] issue too.” In order to create the balance of gender equality, both women and men must be freed from gender stereotypes; as Watson puts it, “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.”
With a 9:11 male to female ratio, BSGE has an almost equal population of males and females. Addressing Emma Watson’s speech and its points, The Bacc Rag has decided to investigate the opinions of BSGE’s males on “HeforShe” and gender equality. One of the main points on Watson’s agenda is the common misconceptions associated with the feminist movement. In her speech, Watson defines feminism as “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of political, economic and social equality of the sexes.” Alvaro Bermejo ‘16 defines feminism as “the equality and rights of both men and women,” which correlates with the general definition as well as Emma Watson’s.
However, an anonymous student defines feminism as “the movement to push for female equal rights,” believing that “the very concept of feminism speaks about solely the rights of females, neglecting and often oppressing that of any other gender. The word itself solely concentrates on ‘female.’” It was after watching Emma Watson’s “HeforShe” speech that the anonymous student agreed wholeheartedly with Watson’s movement. Nonetheless the student remains skeptical of the general feminism movement, because “not all feminists make the arguments that Watson makes.”
On the topic of whether or not feminism is applicable to men–as in the possibility of men identifying themselves as “feminists” or supporting the movement–there was a general consensus of agreement. Mr. Lakhaney believes that, “you can’t have a feminist ideology or agenda without being aware of the fact that gender is a thing, it forges certain privileges and limitations. I think everyone should be made more aware of these things, because I don’t think most men are aware of the challenges women face.”
Overall, there is variation in BSGE’s male students’ opinions on feminism. It is a highly debated topic, and we can all do ourselves a favor by educating ourselves about it. Whether you are male or female and choose to identify or not to identify as a feminist, remember it is not the word that is important, but the issue. Watson argues that although there is not a settled word that unites males and females in gender equality, the movement is a unification of both sexes; as Watson states, it is “about time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum, instead of two sets of opposing ideals.” Males should not feel the need to stray from the issue just because the word includes the root of “feminine.” It is a pressing issue involving all genders that requires immediate action and attention.
According to Watson’s predictions, if no actions towards gender equality are made in the near future it will take approximately: 75-100 years before women are expected to be paid the same amount as men for the same work, 72 years before all rural African girls receive a secondary education, and 16 years for over 15.5 million girls to be subjected to child marriage. If that did not convince you to advocate for change, then keep in mind her motivation: “If not me, who? If not now, when?”