Emma Watson and UN Women’s HeforShe Campaign

Emma Watson gained a lot of media attention back in September with her speech at the United Nations unveiling UN Women’s HeForShe Campaign. As a feminist, I am always moved to see fellow young women make a commitment to achieving global gender equality. And I was also proud of a fellow young woman who commanded the attention of so many highly respected political leaders worldwide.

At the same time though, I can’t help but agree with this quote from an About-Face blog post (speaking of the HeForShe Campaign):

WHY OH WHY is it so hard to just state that feminism is needed because of a universal need for basic human rights and decency? Come on, men – do you really need an invitation, reminders that your mom, sister, or girlfriend are all women, and that there might be a little something good in feminism for you too? Isn’t having solidarity with other human beings already enough reason to join the feminist movement?! (Siri Nybakk)

I mean, she’s right–it is hard for people to really believe that women’s rights is necessary because women are also human beings and we too are deserving of education, equal pay, and a life free of violence, simply because we are people!

This reminds me so much of countless discussions in grad school, of how gender has become trendy in the international development world, but more for the sake of economic and political development.

On looking at the website for the HeforShe campaign, a statement reads: “HeForShe is a solidarity movement for gender equality that brings together one half of humanity in support of the other half of humanity, for the benefit of all.”

For the benefit of all.

But why can’t we just support women’s rights for the benefit of women. Does that somehow make it less worthy a cause??

It’s no secret that feminism is often thought of as a “dirty word.” The first time someone asked me (in high school) if I was a feminist, I laughed and said of course I wasn’t (boy, was I different then!). To me (as a 16 year old), a feminist was someone who was radical and hated men, which is unfortunately how a lot of people still think of feminism.

In other words, if we as feminists are actually going to gain supporters and create change, we have to create a more palatable version of what it means to be a women’s rights advocate. Or at least this is how I interpret the motivations for asserting that a gender equality movement is “for the benefit of all.”

This is not to say that I don’t applaud Emma Watson for her work, or that I don’t support the HeForShe campaign–I just wish we could actually promote women’s rights for who I believe it really should be for–women.

Or is this just the price any social justice movement has to pay if it wants to gain support from people who may not initially realize the importance?

One thought on “Emma Watson and UN Women’s HeforShe Campaign”

  1. You make an excellent point, and I totally agree! It reminds me of well-meaning people who tried to hijack #BlackLivesMatter and make it #AllLivesMatter, etc. It is unfortunate to see any energy at all being diverted from a movement’s core activism so that its allies can feel nice.

    On the flip side, one of the biggest LGBT rights organizations is the Human Rights Campaign (no L’s, G’s, B’s, or T’s in their name at all), and they have been quite successful with an “activism light” style filled with palatable celebrities and facebook memes.

    So you bring up an excellent question!

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