Is feminism a purely female issue?
Emma Watson, better known by most people as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies, recently gave a speech in front of the United Nations to launch UN Women’s new campaign ‘HeForShe’. The aim of this campaign is to end sexism and ensure that gender equality is achieved as soon as possible.
Usually, I do not pay much attention to feminist speeches – not because I don’t care, but more because I feel like however much we discuss it or try to fight against it, there will always be a gender gap. Having been to an all-girls school whose ‘Women in Leadership’ programme encouraged us to challenge the gender stereotypes women are so often restricted by, I have been aware of the ever-growing inequality in our society. But, having been exposed to the issue for so many years and having witnessed so little change, it’s no wonder that I (and undoubtedly many other women of my generation) am beginning to feel a little disheartened.
In her speech, Emma Watson challenges this. She acknowledges that for many people, listening to speeches about gender inequality will not solve the problem. But she suggests that maybe it is not the giving of speeches that is the issue, but that it is the audience to whom they are addressed. She argues that, as women, we must invite men to listen to our problems in order to help them understand our situation. If feminist speeches are only delivered amongst women, then that makes women guilty of the same sexism we are trying so hard to overcome.
It would be so easy for all women to give up and accept that society will never be equal and, as I said before, I often feel that way myself. But, really, all it takes is for one brave person to stand up and say ‘If not me, who?’ If I don’t stand up for what I know is right, how can I expect others to do the same? ‘If not now, when?’ If I don’t say it now, it will never get said.
The message of Emma Watson’s speech is important, and unlike most other speeches I have heard in support of feminism it stresses that women are not solely responsible for fighting against sexism, but that in order to close the gender gap, men and women must unite and work together to reach the goal of a sexually equal society.