Last weekend, a celebrity familiar with a different kind of audience took to the world stage to disrupt assumed gender binaries.
Emma Watson, celebrity actress and United Nations Women Goodwill ambassador, gave an ardent and persuasive speech at the UN Headquarters in New York on gender inequality.
Watson’s speech begins with a bold initiative, claiming her goal is to end gender inequality. She introduces the campaign designed to guide that ambition, “HeforShe.”
The HeforShe campaign is a solidarity movement for gender equality, according to its website.
Solidarity is unity or agreement among those with a common interest. In Watson’s mind, the common interest in question is that we are all people.
The purpose of the campaign is to galvanize men into action and understanding, because as Watson puts it, the conversation will go nowhere when only half the populace is invited.
Confounded, Watson shares her observation that fighting for women’s rights seems so often considered synonymous with man-hating and that feminism has become an unpopular word.
Watson says this misconception must be laid to rest.
“Feminism, by definition, is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and ?opportunities.”
The crux of Watson’s speech came when she knocked down one the greatest misconceptions of feminism there is: feminism is not about men or women — it’s about men and women.
No sex has the right to express more or express less than the other.
Unfortunately, most of the world is still set on believing that feeling is for women and thinking for men. This assumption is not only invalid and hurtful but also extremely damaging to both men and women.
Women must not think so much, while men must not feel so much. Of course chaos will ensue.
Watson maintains that men, just as much as women, have the right to be sensitive, and that perhaps if cultures stop encouraging men to be aggressive, women will not be encouraged to be submissive.
Feminism is not a discussion for women, about ?women.
It is a discussion for all, about equality for all.
Disregarding the stereotype that feminism is just for women, Watson takes a moment to extend a formal invitation to men everywhere to join the ?conversation.
“Men, gender equality is your issue, too.”
There are cultural checks and balances regularly dismissed in discussing ?feminism.
Men will respond to the cultural pressures they feel to define and validate their gender identification, and women are no different.
Watson does well to put her own experience into perspective, noting she has been very fortunate to have parents who didn’t love her any less because she was born a ?daughter.
She acknowledges that few are so fortunate as she has been.
Watson’s speech has been hailed as moving and passionate, but consider what is at stake and it is easy to understand how personal this conversation is.
This young woman is asking that everyone be included in this global discussion, not simply so women can finally get the fair treatment and pay they deserve, but so that men and women can begin to coexist in ways the world has not yet seen.
But of course, not everyone sees eye to eye with Watson’s modest proposal.
The young ambassador has already come under attack by 4Chan trolls, who are threatening to release nude images of Watson as a result of her speaking out about gender inequality.
Certainly this scheme is the brainchild of a socially neglected 13-year-old, as if revealing naked photos of the feminist would undo her words and ambitions.
Hopefully Watson was prepared for such a personal casualty before she stepped up to the microphone to announce her devotion to gender equality.
As of this morning, ? HeforShe.org has accrued 62,000 pledges from men around the world who want to make a difference in ?promoting gender equality.
The bulk of these pledges have come from Western nations such as the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada.
Feminists of the world are praising Watson’s speech, while those in opposition consider ?retaliating.
Only time will reveal the degree to which the world has been stirred by ?Watson’s words.