“He for She” helps equality

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Katharine Quilty

During her UN speech on Sept. 20, Emma Watson introduced the “He for She” campaign, a campaign that invites men to join the battle for gender equality. She discussed the ever-present need for the popular support of the idea—if not the word—of feminism and the ways that both men and women are adversely affected by gender roles. Overall, the speech was very effective and she did a decent job of bringing popular awareness to the continuing necessity of feminism.

Watson addressed the restrictions societal expectations of male behavior place on displaying emotions and the perceived lesser value of her father’s parenting and expressed the necessity for men to join the feminist cause. She does present a valid point—men are held to different standards than women are and they can be very restrictive.

Men are hurt by our gender inequality, and the advancement of feminism will change that. But, to imply that men should join this cause solely because it directly affects them is contradictory to the idea of feminism. Ending gender inequalities is a valuable cause even if it men were not harmed by it— the implication that a movement to improve the lives of women is not whole unless it also includes men places men above women. This idea does not support the premise that people of all genders are equal.

Watson erred on the side of caution when making this speech, placing too much value in the ways that feminism benefits men instead of acknowledging that feminism is a women’s space that men should expand rather than intrude upon. Her desire to make feminism more appealing to men, though, does not appear to be enough for self-proclaimed men’s rights activists across the Internet, as she was immediately faced with the backlash of her speech.

In response to her extremely male-inclusive stance on feminism, 4chan users spread the RIPEmmaWatson hashtag on twitter accompanied by fake news articles about her death, as well as threatened that she would be the next celebrity to have her naked photos leaked. They claim to have “upskirt photos” that they’d love to share.

In addition to these threats of sexual harassment, the Internet continues to display its impressive inability to comprehend complex thought. Some people completely missed the point— Youtube user “hexrohexro” commented, “but if women are inherently equal to men, why do they need men’s help to end perceived inequality?” This completely ignored the fact that the privilege men have generally puts them in positions of higher influence. Other users, like “guydecervens,” proved that they were impressively ignorant to both Watson’s speech and the general workings of our society by saying, “This ‘he’ is not for ‘she’. Men are not put on this planet to serve women.”

Going through the comments on the United Nations’ Youtube video shows the necessity for programs like “He for She.” Despite Watson’s reassurance that men will be a focal point of the campaign, many users like “sum moner” still complained that “crazy feminists[…] just want to rule the world.”

It is clear that our current society does not like the idea of women being treated with the respect that men are. But, thanks to campaigns like “He for She,” we are moving in the right direction. Hopefully, we will soon be in a society that embraces the value of people, regardless of gender, and treats us all as equals.