Emma Watson’s impassioned United Nation’s speech seeking both sexes to peacefully unite in order to achieve women’s equality has touched a nerve. Inaugurating the HeForShe campaign, Watson went on to explain that fundamental feminism “… by definition is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of political, economic and social equality of the sexes.”
Others agreed with Watson’s assertions, “I think it is right I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decisions that will affect my life. I think it is right that socially, I am afforded the same respect as men.”
Though Watson believes these basic tenants and rights to be “uncomplicated,” others violently disagreed with them. Leading the charge was 4chan, a website responsible for releasing hacked nude photos of celebrities. It went as far as threatening Watson with a countdown to release nude photos of her due as a punishing result for her convictions. Jill Filipovic revealed 4chan’s vitriol on Cosmopolitan, “That feminist bitch Emma is going to show the world she is as much of a whore as any woman.” (Update: The countdown has been revealed as an Internet hoax, which doesn’t negate it’s abhorrence, nor the offensiveness of those who responded favorably to it.)
What Watson and Filipovic highlight is nothing more than an unfortunate self-fulfilling prophecy for men. For the record, a prophecy fulfilled by no one else other than men themselves. Not feminists.
4chan’s reaction only proves the integrity of and need for feminism even more. 4cha’s attempt to deny Watson’s and other celebrity’s right to control access to their bodies by violating their right to privacy only proves a horrific pre-existing sense of male entitlement to gaze on the female body without their consent.
When Elliot Rodger’s went on a misogynist killing spree this May, it was to punish women for sexually rejecting him. It was then that the US got a glimpse into the world of male entitlement that Rodgers had previously been a part of online. Online men, who shared Rodger’s beliefs that woman and feminism were usurping men’s power and importance, found a safe place to reinforce their antiquated ideas of gender.
“If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive.” Without mentioning it, what Watson is referring to is the umbrella term, ambivalent sexism. It’s the notion that women must fit specific gender roles in order to be accepted and treated well by men (benevolent sexism), and those who choose not to, like Watson, are submitted to horrible treatment by men (hostile sexism). 4chan is only confirming that sexism is alive and well in the world. Their effort to show that men control women’s bodies more so than women themselves only proves that they are part of the problem Watson is so eager to address and resolve.
However, Watson did not step up to the podium to point fingers or instigate a war of the sexes. In fact, she emphasizes that men, too, are subject to unfair gender stereotypes and that feminism is the tool by which they can free themselves as well. If men are held, for example, to only masculine, breadwinning gender roles, they are also limited in the types of social parity they can achieve. What if Rodger’s had embraced feminism, would his different sense of acceptance and worth have prevented his rampage? This is why Watson warmly invited men to join her in a crusade for sexual equality for both women and men.
While such a beautiful and truthful speech has been slightly marred by the aggression of a few, there are men who are actively fighting against this self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, The White House has a multi-part campaign effort to combat sexual assault. Joining Obama and Biden are Daniel Craig, Benicio Del Toro, Dulé Hill, Seth Meyers, Steve Carell, John Hamm, QuestLove, Joel McHale, and many more. Men are being given the choice to become part of the solution or they can choose to contribute to the existing problem. Men, which would you prefer? Your answer is crucial to the health of your future and women’s.
Feminism is not about man hating. It too has been locked in unfair stereotypes. It has become decidedly clear that in order for women to achieve parity, men must advocate for it too. It is not that women need men’s permission to be respected as equals either; it is merely a numbers game. If all the women worldwide, representing half the population, believe in equality, that is still only 50% parity. Equality is a joint effort where everyone benefits, not just women. In doing so as Watson explains, men will discover a newfound sense of identity freedom that they never knew they were missing. However, globally such freedom enjoyed by everyone remains elusive and unachieved. And according to Watson, overcoming these obstacles and attaining real equality can only be done together in a coordinated effort – with feminism.
Read Watson’s full speech here.