On September 20th, recent Brown graduate and UN Women Ambassador, Emma Watson proved to the masses that her talent and identity does not solely rest upon her acting career. The announcement of the HeForShe campaign, which addresses the global social problem of gender inequality, is the first of its kind at the United Nations Assembly. Watson’s empathetic speech connected the authentic definition of feminism with a modern day vision. Contrary to numerous feminist movements that simply add more fuel to the fire between the battle of the sexes, Watson states that it is necessary to gather as many men as possible to be advocates for gender equality. “How can we affect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation?”, she asks. Only once society embraces the contemporary perception of feminism can the inadvertent feminist in everyone arise.
Many young men and women are choosing to not identity as feminists. In its natural, plain meaning, the feminist perspective strives for the political, economic and social equality of the sexes. Yet as indicated by the recent Women Against Feminism trend, the ideology has become blurred by this negative existing category of women who’s views, as Emma Watson puts it, “are too strong, too aggressive, isolating, anti-men and, ultimately unattractive”. If some forms of feminism were to continue supporting such attitudes, it would justifiably remain unpopular. In order to address the social problem, this banal misunderstanding of feminism must be replaced with its true contemporary meaning.
Social problems such as gender inequality are complex since they lie in the eye of the beholder. For example, homosexuality might be considered a problem for a straight person, but not for the LGBT community. The members in society that are directly related to the issue are those who suffer most. By following the false interpretation of feminism, one might conclude that only women are affected. However, we know feminism encompasses the idea of uniform respect and freedom to both men and women. Ultimately, the social problem can be corrected through the expansion of our sociological imagination.
Our personal lives are impacted by larger social forces which we face everyday. Normative rules dictate which behaviors are socially acceptable and which ones are not. Although humans are born with personality traits, our self-identity is developed further throughout our lifetime interactions. The self develops across the whole process of growth and socialization. From the minute we were born, both sexes are coached and directed to certain identifications. Men must not show too much emotion, and women must be tender and dainty. Year after year, psychology classes reiterate the same statistical stereotypes, reaffirming behavioral gender categories. Now, when we notice an attempt to break the trend, the individual often is stuck in the instance where they must over-correct society’s label upon them.
Public figures such as Hilary Clinton have often been found to encompass masculine, militaristic traits during her public statements, highlighting her combative nature to perhaps prove that she is capable of being the next President. Conversely, artists such as Beyoncé feel the need to overplay their sexuality as a stand towards feminism. In this view, we may note that it is dangerous to conform just as much as it is dangerous to deviate.
Persevering for women’s rights is not synonymous with man hating. Believing in basic, substantive equality is not complicated, nor is it gender exclusive- therefore men should have just as much incentive to strive towards feminist principles.
Emma Watson sums up this sentiment well in her address to the United Nations: “We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see that they are and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence. 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. Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong… It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum not as two opposing sets of ideals.”
– Lara Gosselin
Image License: Some rights reserved UN Women