#heforshe – a positive turn for feminism?

Inviting men to take equality as their issue, too, does not only mean, to claim for their rights and to make the inequalities affecting men visible. It also means to firmly and forthright support women’s equal rights, as well as to stop blaming and bashing feminists.  “For the record, feminism by definition is: The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes” , UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador, British actor Emma Watson called on men and boys worldwide to join the movement for gender equality in her famous speech co-hosting the special event for the HeForShe campaign from the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

She stresses, her being both a feminist, and a privileged woman from Britain, “My school did not limit me because I was a girl. My mentors didn’t assume I would go less far because I might give birth to a child one day. These influencers were the gender equality ambassadors that made me who I am today. They may not know it, but they are the inadvertent feminists who are changing the world today. And we need more of those.” Absolutely yes, Emma Watson! And she continues, “And if you still hate the word [feminism] —it is not the word that is important but the idea and the ambition behind it. Because not all women have been afforded the same rights that I have. In fact, statistically, very few have been.” .

De-gendering the “bossy” or “sensitive” gender connotations

Inviting men to be part of the movement is necessary, feminist men studies and research exist since decades. As I am researching gender in media representations, I recognize, how perfect body-shapes and physical aspects exert pressure on women and girls, and increasingly on men and boys as well. This aestheticisation as a form of gender encoding, reinforces inappropriate and obsolete gender norms, which only constitute one aspect of counteracting gender equality through dichotomising hegemonic gender discourse. Thus I  agree with Emma Watson when she said,  “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.” With the queer appearance of Conchita Wurst, the Winner of the ESC – European Song Contest 2014, the de-gendering of conventional gender norms regained momentum and is prominently extending the spectrum. Emma Watson enhances the variety and range of the gender spectrum as well, when she said, “I want men to take up this mantle. So their daughters, sisters and mothers can be free from prejudice but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too—reclaim those parts of themselves they abandoned and in doing so be a more true and complete version of themselves.”

Doing gender – as the term explains – is a doing, an enacting, a performative process, we can expand our doing gender day by day and give up obsolete gender norms and traditions, take our freedom and give up predefined gender categories – they are only a construction.

Thank you, Emma Watson, for your promotion of feminism and the heforshe campaign.

See more at UN Women HeforShe
Also available in: French; Spanish; Portuguese
To see a video of Emma delivering her speech, visit HeForShe.org

About birgitstoeckl

gender & communication expert, researcher, networker, activist.
This entry was posted in equal rights & social change, gender equality, sex and gender and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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