Gender equality & feminism: why must we fight those we defend?

In the last few weeks Emma Watson has been rising as a champion of sorts for feminism and feminists everywhere. She’s been vocal about the ethical treatment of women whose rights are being violated, and as a UN Goodwill Ambassador she’s now stepped into the very-cruel misogynistic spotlight after her inspiring speech at the UN Headquarters in New York (read the transcript here) as she launched #HeForShe, “A Solidarity Movement for Gender Equality.”

Yet as per (the unfortunate) usual, prevalently-male Internet trolls and haters are doing their best to prevent her efforts and keep her, and essentially anyone with breasts and a vajayjay, as far down the(ir) totem pole(s) as possible to keep women “in their place.”

gender-inequality-comicWith threats of nude photos of her being leaked in retaliation, a common threat (yet not half as bad as others including rape) to any female daring to (gasp!) be viewed as more than their bodies in this “growing cancer” that is feminism (as one 4chan user declared), the need for HeForShe is glaringly obvious as it not only is promoting gender equality, it’s also fixing the broken telephone that has distorted what feminism is really all about.

For the record – Feminism by definition is: ‘The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.’ – Emma Watson

Men and women are affected negatively by gender inequality. Yes, you too, dear reader, have been affected, even if you believe you haven’t been. From the use of common words and phrases (like calling your guy friend “a girl” for having emotions, for calling your lady friend “manly” for doing things like fixing a sink… why are people saying these as though they’re a bad thing?), to our general treatment of each other (a mother is a prized parent yet a father is not, a man is honoured for doing anything sexual yet a female is condemned for it), it affects us all. EVERYONE.

Gender expectations are all around us

Yet, though it affects everyone, feminism is unfortunately generally treated in the same manner as white privilege: “white privilege isn’t about [you] individually. It’s not a personal attack. White privilege is a systemic cultural reality that [you] can either choose to ignore, or choose to acknowledge and attempt to change. It has nothing to do with [your] worth as a person or [your] own personal struggle.”

So why is it that so many people still fail to see the issue? Many take it personally, like when the #NotAllMen hash tag came out in response to the #YesAllWomen movement a few months ago, feeling the need to defend themselves rather than acknowledge the issue at hand. Others, rather than face this uncomfortable issue and recognize that today’s gender status-quo is a changeable systemic cultural reality, simply choose to ignore it. And the best way to ignore and avoid an uncomfortable topic? Poke fun at it. Make jokes. Put people down. Dismiss it as nothing. Rather than explore the power they have to change things, they choose to do, well, nothing.

Whatever the case may be, if the last few years are any indication, gender equality aka feminism is something that must be addressed and recognized for the world to become a better place.

I could type about this until my fingers fall off (ah, sorry, as a female my stereotype should’ve dictated that I instead write “until my fake manicured nails break”) but in all honesty, Watson says it best:

We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see that that they are and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence. 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. Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong…. It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum instead two opposing sets of ideals. If we stop defining each other by what we are not and start defining ourselves by what we just are – we can all be freer and this is what HeForShe is about. It’s about freedom.
If you’re a male who supports both genders being free of all the stereotypes we all suffer, I urge you to visit HeForShe and be part of the movement for feminism. If you’re a female who knows of males that support this, pass it on. Together, with some effort, we can embrace true freedom.
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