Newly-appointed UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson did us girls and boys proud at a special event for the HeForShe campaign, held at the UN Headquarters in New York yesterday. Watson made a speech about gender equality that has now gone viral and earned her the title of “legend.” And what was special about her speech was that rather than focusing on women, Watson directed her words to men.
The language and culture surrounding “feminism” and the way the debate is framed often puts women in the center. But Watson highlighted how detrimental gender inequality is also for men: “I’ve seen young men suffering from mental illness unable to ask for help for fear it would make them look less ‘macho’—in fact in the UK suicide is the biggest killer of men between 20–49; eclipsing road accidents, cancer and coronary heart disease. I’ve seen men made fragile and insecure by a distorted sense of what constitutes male success. Men don’t have the benefits of equality either.”
Watson questioned why “fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating” and why women who express their dissatisfaction with the imbalance between men and women are seen as “too strong, too aggressive, isolating, anti-men and, unattractive.” She added that this “has to stop.”
And how right she is. Aren’t we all tired of hearing that women who call themselves “feminists” are misandrists, left-wing man-haters, or as one member put it on this forum, “nuts in an industrial blender?” The fact of the matter is—as Watson highlights— most countries are run by men, women don’t get paid the same as men, men often make decisions about women’s bodies, and socially men are afforded more respect than women. This is not a fable dreamt up by some “man-hating feminist”; this is the truth.
“Because the reality is that if we do nothing it will take 75 years, or for me to be nearly a hundred, before women can expect to be paid the same as men for the same work. 15.5 million girls will be married in the next 16 years as children. And at current rates it won’t be until 2086 before all rural African girls will be able to receive a secondary education,” Watson says in her speech.
The HeForShe campaign, initiated by the UN and co-founded by actor Matt Damon, is built on the basis that gender equality is not a women’s issue, but a human rights issue that requires the participation of men. Men and boys are being asked to commit to take action against all forms of violence and discrimination faced by women and girls. So far, 15, 490 men have joined the campaign. Compared to the number of men in the world, this number is miniscule…but it’s a start.
“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,” Watson concludes.
It’s speeches like this that plant the seeds for the possibility of real change occurring. We salute you, Emma.
Watch Watson’s entire speech below.
Title image source: unmultimedia.org