Ever since I was young, I adored Emma Watson. Although I was not keen on the Harry Potter fanbase, her presence was always somewhere behind the vast amounts of media I consumed as a child. For me, she became the backbone of my appreciation for actresses, and led me to begin reading Harry Potter in the first place.
As I age, the admiration has continued to be of equal respect, if not more. She has also been receiving incredible amounts of attention this past week, as she famously gave a U.N. speech regarding a feminist campaign with the title “HeForShe.” This campaign invites men to take a stand against gender inequality and expand the diversity that is present in the feminist movement. Watson states, “Men- I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue, too.” She made it very clear that the coexistence and cooperation exhibited by men is the next largest step to advancing women’s rights and the feminist movement.
I, however, disagree. Nonetheless, I do understand that there is not one correct way in viewing feminism, yet wish to recognize the importance of women’s voices and issues that are connected directly with the values of our patriarchal society. Watson’s speech is important for the feminist movement, but its flaws must be noticed in order to advance its empowerment further.
I have a problem with the notion that we must “soften the blow” of feminism in order to include men in the discussion. In inviting men, a small part of me cringes with the promise by Watson that all men will be welcomed with open arms. Support is not a bad thing by any means. However, in promising men that they will be invited and comfortable in every topic regarding feminism is sugar-coating the goals of the feminist movement. There are hidden (and not so hidden) advantages in being a man that are discussed within the feminist community. This is, by no means, comfortable for people to realize. Sure, men are welcome to support, but their voices will not be validated or comforted by women. The movement’s job is not to ensure the comfort and good feelings of allies. Change and realization isn’t always pretty.
Although gender equality may be a concern of men, the goal of feminism is to combat a society that disadvantages women. Women may mock men for their apathy toward women’s rights and misogynistic views, but men mock the seriousness, power, intelligence, and legitimacy of women each and every day, and in many, many different ways. Men must realize this before feeling “victimized” in the feminist environment.
But sure, men have problems perpetrated by the patriarchy. This system devalues any notion of any action that is deemed “unmanly” or “feminine.” For instance, men being unable to show proper emotions is directly tied to any emotional competency that is not displayed with rage being marked as “feminine,” and therefore mocked and devalued. Men do have issues regarding lack of seriousness of domestic violence, paternity leave, and police brutality mainly directed toward black men. These issues, I can assure you, are not ignored by feminists. The focal point of the movement is to combat the issue of gender equality and social justice through the means of obtaining rights of those who are “othered” (women, people of color, transgender, queer, disabled, poverty-stricken individuals). In deconstructing the issues that harm the oppressed, the box is widened and welcomes equality through the justice obtained.
As comfortable as one may try to make it seem, feminism is not a cozy place to rest one’s head. Its only issues are not solidarity, representation, and empowerment. Feminism requires taking responsibility for one’s own consciousness-raising; a reflection and analysis of one’s past, present, and future problematic ideologies. It is realizing privileges and stereotypes that harm the opportunities of others. These are not engrained in our genetic make-up; rather, they are social structures that must be analyzed and deconstructed in order to ensure the well-being of those who have suffered from the entitlement of others. Social structures cannot be overanalyzed in the same sense that a cell cannot be overwhelmingly studied. This is more than watching our words, actions, and thoughts for others. This is about recognizing people as people.