By Kaavya Nair
Edited by Shambhavi Singh, Senior Editor The Indian Economist
Ever Since Emma Watson made her iconic speech at the UNGA about the ‘Heforshe’ movement; it is conjectured to be game changing. “Gender equality is your issue too”, she said inviting men to participate towards the upliftment of women in society. Noting that men suffer from sexism in their own ways, Watson asked, “How can we affect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation?” Truer words have never been spoken. While this is the essence of her speech, the movement solely focuses on taking action against all forms of discrimination and violence faced by women and girls, while there is no mention of the problem and sufferings of a similar nature that are faced by men.
Watson believes that Feminism neither concerns itself with bashing of men, nor does it solely focus on the betterment of women, but it is in its true sense about gender equality. Though unfortunately, in its present form feminism has ignored sexist biases against men and sometimes even contributed towards it. The women’s movement has fought for more social attention towards sexual violence and domestic abuse that they face, and rightly so, but what about the male counterparts of society who face the same? They still tend to get short shrift from the media and activist alike. Experiments have shown that violence towards women are quicker to gain attention, but the same towards men often leads to amusement and sometimes even apathy towards the female. Extensive media attention was given when the news of Chris Brown physically assaulting his then girlfriend Rihaana came into light, while the media completely ignored the news of female soccer star Hope Solo who is currently facing charges for assaulting her sister. Today’s conception of feminism that sees physical violence as a by-product of men’s dominance over women only reinforces these double standards.
The ‘HeforShe’ campaign seems to be a movement where the single point of it is to have men swear allegiance to this campaign and spread it through social media. While Watson spoke about how men should feel welcome to come and participate in the conversations of gender equality, it is highly unlikely that men are going to actively take part in them, if the conversation ultimately amounts to them being told to ‘shut up and listen’ to the evils that men lash out towards women, while ignoring the sufferings that men face. Real conversations must let men talk not only about those aspects that are feminism approved, but also issues that have a direct impact on the way men function in society, such as wrongful accusation of rape, lack of opinion to avoid parenthood and the like.
Another aspect to note at this point is that this movement is largely a representation of the larger problem that the American/European societies face and how greater attention can be given to this issue only in “first world countries”. In far too many countries across the world, poverty and lack of basic human rights is coupled with a patriarchal society, and for obvious reasons, more attention has to be given to the former problems faced by them. While it is important to bring about the feminist movement world over, it is unlikely that ‘non-first world’ countries can afford to shift their focus towards this when people in the nation state are suffering from lack of basic amenities.
Watson deserves credit for wanting to end the idea that “fighting for women’s rights is synonymous with man-hating.” But she cannot do so if she treats such notions only as unfair stereotypes and ignores the aspect that men deserve equal representation in what they wish to be a revolution to bring about gender equality. There is still work to be done, to not only bring about ‘He for She’ but ‘All for Everyone’.