When you think “feminism” you might immediately think of the Paycheck Fairness Act or Wendy Davis’ pink sneakers. What might not jump into your mind is men’s role in the fight for gender equality. Emma Watson wants to change that.
We know and love Watson from her acclaimed role as Hermione in the Harry Potter series, but the Brown alum has shown that gender inequality can’t be solved with the wave of a magic wand. With her widely popular speech at the United Nations in September, she kickstarted an organization called HeForShe. The website states that “Gender equality is not only a woman’s issue, it is a human rights issue that requires my participation. I commit to take action against all forms of violence and discrimination faced by women and girls.” The site also extends a formal invitation to men to join the movement, followed by a map showing how many men in countries around the world have accepted the pledge.
More than just a website or a clickable agreement, HeForShe has highlighted the feminist movement, bringing international exposure to the cause. HeForShe also plans to engage the public in offline ways, like creating a student association, mandating gender equality discussions at academic institutions and working internationally with CEOs to employ the Seven Women’s Empowerment Principles in the workplace. In a world where many women shy away from the title of “feminist,” Watson hopes reclaim the true definition of the word and make it accessible to women and men alike. Watson’s power and relevance (as both a UN goodwill ambassador as well as a renowned actress) allowed her words to reach more ears than they would have otherwise. The campaign evoked a slew of male celebrities holding signs bearing the hashtag #HeForShe. HeForShe was hailed as an instant success, although press about the campaign has died down since its release last September.
While HeForShe shows promise, many people have reservations with the campaign. For example, some people have argued that men’s prominence in the movement devalues women’s contributions to the feminist movement and misplaces focus. Similarly, many feel that HeForShe implies that women need men to liberate them because women are unable to do so themselves. While these implications may not have been the goals of HeForShe, they are results all the same.
Questions about the effectiveness of the campaign have been debated, but there is no doubt that it has cast a spotlight on an important cause. Regardless of whether or not you think that men should be on the front lines in the fight for gender equality, the important thing is that you’re thinking of feminism.<