Emma Watson redefines feminism

HeforShe acknowledges that equal rights are not achieved by devaluating men or holding them responsible for gender inequality. (HeforShe)

Feminism has become a strong word. If you identify yourself as a feminist, you run the risk of being labeled as a man-hater, a killjoy, or an aggressor. Feminism has become a confused social issue, but in reality the goal is simple. The goal of feminists is to achieve economic, political, and social equality of the sexes. Feminism is not a women’s issue. It is a human rights issue.

Model, actress, Brown graduate, and UN Ambassado, Emma Watson recently launched the campaign ‘HeforShe.’ HeforShe acknowledges that equal rights are not achieved by devaluating men or holding them responsible for gender inequality. The fact is that feminism affects men too. True gender equality cannot be reached if only one half of the population is participating in the solution.

Just as women desire the right to defy gender norms as strong, independent, and intelligent, men deserve the right to challenge their social constraints. As Watson worded it, “both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong.” A father’s role as caretaker should be just as important as the role of a mother. A boy’s struggle with depression should be taken as seriously as his female counterpart.

Like Watson, many of us at Bryant are privileged. Regardless of your economic status or home life, you are attending a nationally recognized university and you will likely soon move into a career. In some parts of the world, women are unable to attend high school, and instead are married before they reach puberty. In some parts of the world, women are not allowed to make decisions about their own bodies. In this amazing, advanced, leading country, women often make less money than their male counterparts for performing the exact same job.

Women make up half of the population, but few represent us in the political sphere. Shouldn’t decisions that impact women be made by women? By the same token, conventions for women’s rights are often almost completely attended by women. Watson reminds us that true equality cannot be achieved unless both genders are equally represented and involved in the change.

Above all else, feminism is a fight for equality of the sexes. Women and men should feel welcomed to participate in the fight for equality. Feminism needs to stop being viewed as man-hating.

As I write this article, I have multiple internet tabs open for research and it reminds me of how difficult and confusing feminism has become. By simply searching the key words ‘Emma Watson HeforShe,’ it is frustrating to observe how non-unified feminists are. One article published by The Huffington Post is titled “Sorry Privileged White Ladies, but Emma Watson Isn’t a ‘Game Changer’ for Feminism.” Another article published by Time magazine headlines “Sorry, Emma Watson, but HeforShe is Rotten for Men.” Sickeningly, a large portion of this search has led me to articles about hackers threatening to release nude photos of Watson. I cannot comprehend how this important, motivational, social movement is becoming outweighed in the media by the potential invasion of Watson’s privacy.

Like so many women who have spoken out as supporters of feminism, Watson’s well-intended speech to invite men to participate in the fight for equality is being criticized instead of celebrated. Some of those criticizing Watson’s movement are people who identify as feminists themselves, like journalist Amy McCarthy, the author of the aforementioned Huffington Post article.

McCarthy claims “positioning men as the saviors of oppressed women isn’t productive, and devalues the work that feminists have been doing for decades.” The reality is that Watson did not beg men to save feminists; she invited them to join the conversation. She acknowledged that women ignoring the input of men is just as ineffective as men dominating movements for social change.

While the concept of feminism – to achieve economic, political, and social equality of the sexes – is simple, the social movement is quite complicated and unorganized. How can change occur if there is no agreement on how to make change?

I happen to agree with Emma Watson’s view of feminism. I believe that men and women should be involved in the fight for gender equality. Because if we can rid our society of the social constraints that limit men, the social constraints of women will be removed as a consequence. Watson stressed in her speech that “if men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled.”

Equality works both ways. Equality cannot be reached if only half of the population is invited to participate. Equality cannot be achieved if issues of equality are treated separately and remain unorganized. Feminists cannot achieve equality of the sexes if men are rejected from the conversation – that would make feminists as ignorant as the male historical figures that put women in this current position.

On behalf of Watson’s work, I would like to invite the entire Bryant University community to join the HeforShe campaign. Feminism is an issue of human rights and it affects everyone. Bryant students are future innovators, business leaders, and social reformists. The men and women of our generation are responsible to become informed facilitators of social change.