#HeForShe: Works for me
We’re having a bitchfight at Reprobait; this time we’re talking about the effectiveness of the recently kickstarted #HeForShe campaign, fronted by Emma Watson. We’re divided into two camps. Ami digs it, but Anisa? She’s not so keen. Take a peek at both sides and see who you wanna sit with. Read Anisa’s counter argument here.
Not content with being the highest achieving witch on the block, Emma Watson took a dignified stand against gender inequality at the UN last month. Before you switch off, anticipating a man-bashing pseudo feminist rant, let me tell you, despite its faults, it was something special, and I hope it will reinstate the true meaning of the word ‘feminism’.
On our long road to gender equality, it’s become apparent that the word feminism has become synonymous with man-hating. It’s been misused, misinterpreted and abused by women who do genuinely hate men, which is another issue altogether. It’s become a feared and dirty word, culminating in many women rejecting the term, despite being apparently in favour of gender equality. It doesn’t make sense. It took a twenty four year old girl to drag the word out of the dirt. Feminism is about elevating the female status to the level of a man; it’s about equal pay, the ability to decide what we do with our bodies, and the demand for respect that stops men touching us without permission. It was never supposed to go beyond that. Men must recognise that it is not about dragging them down. Recent campaigns such as #yesallwomen served to highlight the experiences of women feeling objectified to terrified on a daily basis at the hands of men. This isn’t all men’s fault but it is the responsibility of all men to recognise and decry the behaviour that makes women feel like second-class citizens. It certainly made some men sit up and listen, insisting that all men weren’t like that. (Okay, that’s fine. Show us.) Alas, it also brought the douchebags to the yard, rattling off the usual drivel that we deserve it, we bring it on ourselves, or even better, we encourage it.
Unfortunately, the real intended target; those men that really need an attitude adjustment were probably more concerned with Emma’s boobs than her words. They’re also the morons that think shouting at you through a van window is a ‘compliment’ and no number of intelligent women speaking out against that behaviour is going to change that. This is why we need to push this campaign from the ground up – to our sons, nephews, boys that haven’t yet been conditioned to believe that girls are just pink, fluffy, useless playthings that couldn’t possibly match up to their strapping, muscly male counterparts.
So let’s get back to the point Watson was making. Gender norms, and the behavioural expectations that go with them, as she rightly pointed out, are dangerous for both men and women. They have been heretofore (and incorrectly) believed to be women’s issues because when gender norms are conformed to, men come out on top. Because they’re supposed to dominate. They’re supposed to provide, protect and keep their women in check. Right? But the men that don’t see themselves like that – those that are openly sensitive, and almost *gasp* womanly in their affect, do not benefit from this rigid structure either. And we all know the minute a group don’t benefit from a structure is the minute they join the fight against it.
The main fault I see with Emma’s speech, and one, I note, that many have discussed; is that it does not deal with the glaringly obvious issue that even we as women are not presenting a united front. Women of colour feel underrepresented, trans women don’t feel included – feminists belonging to everything that is isn’t white, straight or cis are simply not on the radar, and this is something the Emma Watsons of the world need to recognise and work to fix whilst we sip our Pumpkin Spice Lattes – even if that fix is simply listening. We can’t expect the world to listen to us if we can’t even play nice amongst ourselves. I’m not saying that this should rest all on Emma’s shoulders – but at least a hat tip would have been good.
We all have our leaders, our figureheads and our inspiration. The UN saw fit to invite Emma Watson to speak on this issue, and just because she hasn’t been shot in the face by the Taliban does not make her less worthy of our attention. She may be a mere messenger, but she believes in this cause, and whatever you think of her; she got people talking – men included. Of course the impact will never be as high as throwing oneself in front of the King’s horse (big up, Emily Davidson), but activism, no matter how drastic, begins with an incitement that explains that we aren’t to be divided according to the levels of sexism we face – we women are all on the same team. That doesn’t mean, however, that we middle class white girls (myself included) sit in our ivory towers and direct the feminist activities of women in other countries. It’s patronising and demeaning to their efforts and independence. Solidarity is one thing, being a voluntourist and using your gap yah teaching women of colour how to live is quite another. I can only assume that choosing Watson to represent the initiative was to hit a target demographic and garner much needed publicity. I don’t portent to know how women of colour feel when Emma Watson speaks for us – maybe the fact that she is a fellow female isn’t enough, but I feel arguing about it dilutes the energy we expend on this matter at hand.
Right now, HeForShe is trying to incite men to join a cause that will ultimately support their sisters, girlfriends and mothers, and that ought to be the focus. You can’t make a drastic change without first changing a few minds, and even if they are only doing it to help ‘their’ women, it’s a bloody start – that’s why I believe this campaign has potential.
Why? Because it appeals to men – those who suffer because they aren’t manly enough will feel recognised rather than attacked. Some other men, the progressive, open-minded and probably non-asshole men may be swayed by the notion that this is affecting the lives of the women they care about. And with the knowledge that even something so seemingly insignificant as being called bossy is NOT OKAY, they might start checking other men for sexist behaviour.
I can’t imagine for one minute that the misogynistic pond life whom this speech should resonate with will be moved one bit- but if they start behaving like pigs and just one of their male friends speaks out against it. Maybe, they’ll take note. These are the men that (sadly) only respect the opinions of other men, so we need those other men on board. We as women can shout and scream and protest and retort and report until we’re blue in the face, but there is still a generation of men with such ingrained prejudice that it will only take a fellow man to convince them of women’s equality, if they are to be convinced at all. Now personally, I’m all about playing this game. I am perfectly happy to use all available and ethical resources to get to where I am going. Why shouldn’t male allies be allowed in in the fight? As long as it’s not a misguided attempt to pick up chicks, I’m cool with that.
What we must remember is that HeForShe isn’t about Emma Watson. It’s about getting people who aren’t ordinarily interested in feminism, or who don’t necessarily realise that they too are victims of sexism to sit up and take notice instead of giggling about how they just love men and their unsolicited attention. Because those girls that perpetuate the notion of the “cool girl” that just loves the odd uninvited slap on the ass (and presumably earning less than their male counterparts) need to fucking stop it.
Also, because I can’t help myself, I’ll leave you with my final thought on what we should do to gender inequality: