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Emma Watson- Leader of a New Feminist Movement?
Emma's HeForShe Campaign
Two weeks after the fact, UN Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson is still gathering speed from her UN speech encouraging a revised movement for gender equality. In the speech, Emma reflects how the word "feminism" has become unpopular, often viewed as "man-hating." But what feminism really means, is believing men and women to be equals.
Emma said that feminism is a term that should be used by both men and women. She explained during her infamous speech:
"I've seen my father's role as a parent being valued less by society. I've seen young men suffering from mental illness, unable to ask for help for fear it would make them less of a man ... I've seen men fragile and insecure by what constitutes male success. Men don't have the benefits of equality, either. We don't often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see that they are."
As a result, men have slowly started to join the fight. A teenage boy sent Emma a letter, supporting her vision for gender equality. Many celebrities have also taken pictures in support of the campaign, holding up signs that say, "HeForShe," and posting it on their social media.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton on Gender Equality:
- "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal.
Emma Watson on Gender Equality:
- ". . . I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decision-making of my country. I think it is right that socially I am afforded the same respect as men."
Feminism Throughout History
Gender equality supporters have suffered a long road. In the United States, the first push for women's rights occurred at the Seneca Falls Convention, lead by activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Much like Watson, the women who attended brought their appeal to men. In Stanton's “Declaration of Sentiments, Grievances, and Resolutions,” she attempted to amend the preamble, saying: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal.”
After the the United States gave women the right to vote in 1920, women activism died down. It wasn't until the 1960s that a new feminist movement emerged. Following in step with the Civil Rights Movement, the feminist movement began with Betty Friedan's book, The Feminine Mystique, written in 1962. In the book, she discredited the idea that housewives were content with their lives. Focusing on educated, middle class women, she called on them to search for employment outside the home.
But it was not just educated, middle class women who responded. Women of all different backgrounds, the young and the old, the rich and poor, the educated and the not, began to rise to the task. From the 1960s to the 1970s, several women's issues were addressed. Some of these included a more equal pay for women in the workplace, the passing of sexual harassment laws, increased educational opportunities for women, and the acknowledgment of a woman's right to birth control and abortion.
Though the movement thrived for several years, it eventually diminished in the 1970s with the efforts of a strong anti-feminist movement that erupted as a backlash. As a result, women's efforts were left unfinished, and the term "feminism" became seen as radical rather than a push for equality. .
Watson's Goals for the HeForShe Campaign
Emma Watson's goals for the new HeForShe Campaign are high. She longs to erase gender inequality in the world once and for all, uniting both men and women together under the cause.
Some issues she wishes to address include:
- The dramatic pay gap between men and women, in both developed and undeveloped countries.
- Sexual threats in the media, including the release of nude/promiscuous photos without the woman's consent.
- Violence against women worldwide and the constant efforts to blame women for the violent acts being committed against them.
- Expectations of people based on gender; examples include a man's expectation to strong and powerful, and a woman's expectation to be beautiful.
- The presumption that mothers play a more important role in parenthood than fathers, and the judicial discrimination that happens as a result.
- The lack of access to educational institutions for women in underdeveloped countries.
Though ambitious, Emma's efforts have inspired men and women across the world. She makes it clear that, though progress has been made throughout the years, the fight is not yet over. Her goals will only ever be achieved once one universal concept has been adopted in the hearts and minds of those around the world: that men and women are equal. To do this, gender differences must be set aside.
Gender equality has been a long, hard journey. It's a debate that has been going on since the Middle Ages. Perhaps young Emma Watson is the new Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Perhaps she represents an extension of the ideas of Betty Friedan. Whatever her role, with enough support, perhaps her efforts may start the new, and possibly the last, feminist movement.
If you're considering whether or not to show support for her campaign, consider her own inspiring self-reflection: ". . . If not me, who? And if not now, when?"
See the full speech here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-iFl4qhBsE
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