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HeForShe; Emma Watson’s UN Speech

September 30, 2014
By Curtis Vandermolen, Member, California Executive Committee

On September 22, Miss Emma Watson (of Harry Potter fame) spoke before the United Nations about women’s equality. Her message was facially simple, asking men to stand up and take on the mantle of feminism to promote equality for all. Miss Watson astutely noted that Feminism is often associated with “man-hating”, and that few men accept the tenets of feminism as they understand them.

Four years ago, I met a woman that was an outspoken feminist. My opinion of Feminism reflected the statements Miss Watson made on Monday — Feminism is a group of women that use the mantle of gender inequality to force political change which subjugates men to women’s priorities. However, through conversations, research, and a check on reality, I have since regularly defended feminism and have adopted the mantle for myself. The reasons are simple, but their impact on Feminism, Miss Watson’s speech, and the media are profound.

You may have noticed that I have capitalized Feminism in some places, and written it lower-case in others — this is no editing accident. One of the realizations that led me to my current position is that Feminism (the vocal political movement) has departed greatly from feminism as it was originally defined. Miss Watson defined feminism as: “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.” Under this definition, I think that the vast majority of people in developed countries can agree, it is the political interpretation and perversion of this ideal that leads to Feminism and “man-hating”. Throughout this article, feminism is the clearly defined theory, and Feminism is the vocal political movement.

Vocal minority political groups that espouse controversial demands are forever the darlings of American media (and abroad). With the speed at which “news” is delivered, shrinking media budgets, almost non-existent in-depth reporting, and a constant eye on the bottom line, mainstream news outlets resort to sensational knee-jerk reactions — often wrong. This was the case with The Washington Post, Time Magazine, BBC, and others on Tuesday, after an unknown source put up a countdown clock which insinuated that nude photos of Miss Emma Watson would be released.

These big-name media outlets staked their reputation on the assertion that this threat was in response to Miss Watson’s U.N. speech on feminism — an attempt by men to bully her into silence. Just hours later it was discovered that the only possible connection between the two was her high profile. The countdown was a hoax. But more importantly, it was supposed to bring about the shutdown of a site that has invaded the privacy of celebrity women, and ignite a national debate about internet censorship. Ironic that a social media stunt (however ill conceived) intended to protect women should be decried as an attempt by men to silence feminism? This is where the man-hating voice of Feminists rears its ugly head — the voice that the media has staked its reputation on.

Now, this feminist woman that I met four years ago has become a full partner in my life. We share equally the duties and responsibilities of maintaining our household, providing for ourselves and our children, and raising two girls and a boy. It took strength, compassion, and willingness from both of us to build this equality. This dual effort from men and women seems to be the point that Miss Watson was trying to make in her U.N. speech.

However, even the name of the U.N. HeForShe campaign is divisive and elevates one gender over the other. Depending on your perspective, either it says that only men can give women equality (creating an imbalance of power that immediately prevents success) or it says that men should subjugate their interests for the benefit of women (suggesting that the needs and wants of women are more important).

I, too, am a feminist and because of that, I personally accept Miss Watson’s invitation to participate in the conversation, and truly hope that other men will join me. But I respectfully submit that campaigns and statements which continue to divide people by sex, and allowing media to twist equality back into the Feminist box with impunity will further damage the cause of feminism — the quest for equal rights and opportunities for all people.

Watch Miss Emma Watson’s speech before the United Nations here.

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