He for She—Inviting Men to Address Gender Equality

This essay appeared on The Good Men Project site on October 29, 2014.

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In September of this year, actor Emma Watson created the program HeForShe as a call to action for men and women alike in battling the inequality of the genders.

“It’s your issue too,” she said during a talk given in New York as part of her ongoing role as United Nations Women Goodwill ambassador.  During the speech, the Harry Potter star wondered how they would ever be able to fulfill the objective if only part of the population participated.   HeForShe aims to enlist as many men as possible to help achieve gender equality the world over.

Watson went on to say in an interview with The Independent (UK), “There is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop.

“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.”

The actress also outlined her experience of sexism, which started at the age of eight when she was called “bossy” because she wanted to direct school plays, adding that her male classmates weren’t described in the same way.

“When at 14 I started being sexualized by certain elements of the press,” she said.

“When at 15 my girlfriends started dropping out of their sports teams because they didn’t want to appear ‘muscly’.

“When at 18 my male friends were unable to express their feelings.” (1)

Her fellow Harry Potter star, Daniel Radcliffe, heeded her cry for participation in a separate interview.  He stated he found it frustrating being told over and over that he made a “strange romantic lead,” when the same was never said of Watson.  He claimed he disliked being typecast simply because he starred in the Harry Potter franchise as a child.  He said, “…the male population had no problem sexualizing Emma Watson immediately.”

In an interview with the Associated Press, Radcliffe said:  “Around the time the romantic comedy “What If”came out, a lot of people were saying, ‘You’re really an unconventional romantic lead.’ And so eventually I got bored of hearing that and kind of picked someone up on it.  ‘What about me is unconventional, exactly? Like, tell me.’”

“And the reporter said, “Well, I think it’s probably the fact that you know, we associated you with playing Harry, the young boy wizard.” (2)

Earlier this year, Radcliffe said he was a feminist and called for more roles in top positions in the entertainment industry to be made available to women.

◊♦◊

Often heard are unenlightened sorts exclaiming that much of the problem with gender equality stems from the women’s empowerment movement, feminism, and the National Organization of Women (NOW).  “Socialist Feminism” is a concept that got its start in the latter part of the 19th century, but really found a foothold in society in the 1970s. Social Feminism analyzed the connection between the oppression of women and other oppression in society, such as racism and economic injustice. (3) Some may say that the advent of the focus on gender equality created dividing lines that weren’t soon erased, and that the movement on gaining equal rights for women might actually have been a setback.

Perhaps the rift comes from a social need to differentiate between male and female.  Yes, biologically, we’re somewhat different, but to put one gender in a box because of those differences seems pointless and counter-intuitive.  What Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe seem to be saying is that we’re all similar under the skin, but our perceptions of divisive differences seems to be keeping us apart.

On Watson’s HeForShe site, it states: The movement for gender equality was originally conceived as a struggle led only by women for women.  In recent years, men have begun to stand up in addressing inequalities and discrimination faced by women and girls. 

On The Good Men Project, we continue to have conversations about men’s issues and how men can bridge the social chasm between genders and start being inclusive instead of exclusive.  It’s a start.

 

  • “THE INDEPENDENT,” by ELLA ALEXANDER, Sunday, 21 September 2014
  • “The Independent,” by DAISY WYATT, Sunday, 26 October 2014
  • Buchanan, Ian. “Socialist Feminism.”A Dictionary of Critical Theory. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 20 October 2011.
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