Emma Waston’s speech at the United Nations Sept. 21 on women’s rights was both powerful and so eloquent, many were moved to tears. Officially launching the HeForShe Campaign, she brought to light many issues surrounding feminism and what it really means to be a feminist. Not only did she clarify that feminism does not mean man-hating or over-aggression, but she also pointed out how sexism affects men as well.
She reminded many that feminism is a human rights issue.
“When men do not feel the need to be aggressive, women will not be compelled to be submissive,” Watson said. “When men do not feel the need to be in control, women will not be controlled.”
It’s a potent statement and one that should be brought to light. Equality is a man’s fight, too. However, when a woman, especially a well-known celebrity, speaks out for women’s rights, there will be those who decide to try and put her back in her place.
The first wave of response to Watson’s was positive. They rallied behind her with uplifting comments and over 120,000 men making the HeForShe pledge. And then the second wave came.
An Internet group calling themselves Rantic Marketing claimed they had nudes of Emma Watson and would release them in five days, claiming once seen with a ‘load on her face, her feminism kick would be over’. There have been threats of sexual and physical violence toward Watson.
Men are as constrained as women by gender stereotypes. However, they shouldn’t care about feminism because it will improve their lives. They should care because it improves women’s lives. We need men to stand with us because men who don’t will never listen to what a woman has to say.
That’s not to say men don’t face abuse though. The chance that men will be raped in their lifetime is 1-71, and 14 percent of men suffer from domestic abuse. But these statistics are always written off. Just as women are told it is their fault for getting raped, men are told it is their fault for not enjoying it. The probability that women are raped in their lifetime is 1-5. One in four will be abused. One in three will be pushed, slapped or shoved by a partner. The numbers are stacked against women, but that is why men supporting feminism is so important.
Our generation and the ones following closely behind will all benefit from this. Men and women can be free to be sensitive. Men and women can be free to be strong. There needs to be an end to victim-blaming. Being told “If you don’t want to be raped, don’t go out” needs to stop, as well as being told you should have enjoyed it — it was sex.
The HeForShe Campaign is new but steadily growing in popularity. All we need is a generation of both men and women working together to create equality. Without men, only half the world is working for women’s rights. Watson ended her speech with a powerful question, so I leave you with the same: “If not you, then who? If not now, then when?”
Email Amanda Little at firstname.lastname@example.org.