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Please Stop Making Feminism All About Men
By Kate Hickey
How we're used to seeing Emma Watson being a badass.
I admit I teared up a little while I watched the video of Emma Watson’s lovely speech at the U.N. As a life-long fan of Harry Potter, I felt an immense surge of pride for her. She is doing exactly what Hermione Granger would do. Her speech was detailed, intelligent, and passionate, and I felt the utter sincerity in her words when she said, “I care about this problem.” I felt joy and relief when she outright stated that she lives in a space of privilege. I could tell that Emma Watson knew what she was talking about and believed wholeheartedly in what she was saying. But unfortunately, this speech was not as “game-changing” as the clickbait of Internet news media led me to believe.
Much of Watson’s speech was agonizing the way it structured gendered inequalities. In particular, when Watson pointed out that freeing men from gender roles would, by consequence, free women, I was actually quite angry. Again the need to put men first—by this logic, men must be freed from patriarchy and then women can be free. No. That is not equality. That is not what feminism is working towards. Feminists are not here to free men and then be freed afterwards. It is about freeing everyone, in the same instant, from the toxic cesspool that is the gender binary.
By making feminism about saving men, it inverts the entire idea. Feminism is about the equality between the genders/sexes and the reason that there is not equality is because men oppress women. They are not oppressing themselves when they reject socially coded feminine qualities like empathy, compassion, or passivity. They certainly are harming themselves, as Watson points out, but it is not the job of women to protect men from the negative consequences of patriarchy. Women already have enough crap to deal with in relation to negative consequences of patriarchy.
While I appreciated that her speech was primarily focused on dismantling the “man-hater” image that feminists have, it was frustrating to watch her coddle and comfort these people, these men, who have the power to end oppression with influence and legislation, but generally decide it’s too much of an effort. It means that men have to be prepared to change the way they think about gender. It involves giving up too much power, safety, and money. Remember how Congressional Republicans unanimously voted against the Equal Pay Act in April?
So, in general, Watson’s speech could appeal to men, in the way that it appeals to their masculinity – these women need your man-help. The speech would also appeal to feminists who have a less-than thorough understanding of feminist theory and history. In the end and despite its flaws, Watson gave a good (but not great) speech, because feminism does require the participation of men to succeed and because men do suffer negative consequences from patriarchy. And since Emma Watson stands as the face of a generation and an intelligent young woman, it will prompt people of all genders to explore feminism more deeply, and while that is not necessarily enough, it is better than nothing.
But now on to part two.
In the days since Watson’s speech, she has come under fire by the trolls of the Internet. Members of the sites 4chan and Reddit have spent time verbally abusing her and (allegedly) threatening to expose photos hacked from her phone. By proudly stating her identity as a feminist, Emma Watson has become the latest woman celebrity to receive a disturbing amount of vitriolic hatred.
And yet, did I not just critique her speech for being far too forgiving and friendly to men? Did I not just spend almost 500 words telling you, dear reader, that letting men off that easily in feminist discourse is problematic and simplifying the issue? I believe I did.
So despite the fact that Emma Watson delivered a solid, inclusive, and intersectional speech that would likely appeal to a majority of people (men included, men in particular), she is still a victim of sexism and abuse. Despite the fact that Emma Watson took the time to literally state that she was formally inviting men to participate in feminism, she still gets called disgusting, sexist names and threatened with sexual violence. I hope you can see what is wrong with this picture.
The feminist movement, in general, is not particularly thrilled by celebrity feminists. Emma Watson’s speech is, unfortunately, an example of why in its simplicity. Celebrity feminists are a good start but they are not always good representations of where the feminist movement stands, academically or politically, in this current time. However, because these women dare to even speak up about the easy parts of feminism, they still get barraged with abuse from the general public. As feminists, we must choose where to stand. Standing against celebrity feminists in the wake of these attacks is clearly not the right thing to do. We must stand with them, but we must also educate them. We must bring them in with love and say, “You are on the right track. Let me help you work out the kinks.” And we must be prepared for it to be frustrating and difficult.
Even though celebrity feminists are not the most satisfying of representatives, they certainly would not label themselves as such if they did not believe in the basic beliefs that the movement stands for. Equality and equity for all people, of all genders, colors, and classes. We must give them time to grow, to learn, and to understand the deeper aspects of feminism that take time to internalize. We already know how hard and painful it is to unlearn patriarchy, and we must give them the chance to do that. And they have to do it while in the spotlight, with the eyes of the world on them! I believe that “celebrity feminist” will one day be a term we no longer need, but for now, I simply must support their efforts to normalize and mainstream these ideas, even if it isn’t done perfectly.
#Real #Feminism #EmmaWatson #UnitedNations #HeForShe #Intersectionality #Gender #Women #Celebrities #HarryPotter
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