Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would have heard about new UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson’s phenomenal speech at the UN this week for the launch of the He for She campaign (para ver el discurso en español, ver más abajo). Speaking about the need to stop the incorrect association of feminism with man-hating and, instead, recognize feminism for what it truly is – the belief in equality for all, Watson invites men to join the struggle for gender equality, not just for the women that they care about but also for themselves:
How can we affect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation? Men—I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue too.
Because to date, I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent being valued less by society despite my needing his presence as a child as much as my mother’s. 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.
We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see that that they are and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence…Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong.
There are a million things to love about this speech but what I find most hopeful and inspiring is that Watson speaks about moving beyond a binary, ‘us vs. them’ view of gender to seeing gender as a diverse spectrum, which affects us all:
It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum not as two opposing sets of ideals…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.
This call for moving beyond strict, binary ideas of gender is truly what this blog is all about and we applaud Watson for helping to push the discourse to a space where we can truly work on equality.
While this is not a new concept in queer theory, it’s hopeful to see this idea being promoted by high-profile spokespeople. It’s not the first time it’s been done, though. Martine Rothblatt, the highest-paid female executive in the U.S.A. and a transgender person, wrote way back in 1995,
There are five billion people in the world and five billion unique sexual identities…Genitals are as irrelevant to one’s role in society as skin tone. Hence, the legal division of people into males and females is as wrong as the legal division of people into black and white races.
But, as our current societies still encourage girls to aspire to be beautiful stars, rather than CEOs, perhaps Watson’s words will have a greater impact on the youth who will push forward this paradigm shift in the way the mainstream tackles gender inequality.
And, if you somehow missed Watson’s speech, check out the full speech below.
Y en español aquí: