Emma Watson’s UN gender equality campaign is an invitation to men, too

Emma Herman with Mama Cash for The Guardian News Global Development Network – Wednesday October 8, 2014 (originally published 3 Oct)

 Actor and UN goodwill ambassador Emma Watson at an event petitioning for an increased number of women in the Uruguayan parliament. Image: Rex Features
Actor and UN goodwill ambassador Emma Watson at an event petitioning for an increased number of women in the Uruguayan parliament. Image: Rex Features

Men are welcome to join the conversation about gender equality. Let them start by listening to what women and girls have to say

Emma Watson launched the HeForShe campaign at the UN last week and extended a “formal invitation” to men to participate in the conversation about gender equality. “Gender equality is your issue too,” said the actor and UN Women goodwill ambassador. Watson’s speech struck a chord with many and fanned the feminist fire that is, slowly but surely, being reignited.

The reason Watson invited men to join the conversation was that gender stereotypes also limit them. “Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong,” she said. But while gender stereotypes can be suffocating to men too, it is women, girls and transgender people who face the lion’s share of boundaries and limitations.

Let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that men and women have the same stake in this drive for progress. Men wield power over women. That is the crux. And we should not ignore other dimensions: white wields power over black. Straight wields power over queer. Rich wields power over poor. Feminism is about addressing the power imbalances that limit people’s opportunities to live their lives to the fullest. We need men to join the feminist pursuit of social justice because it is the right thing to do. It is a matter of human rights, not of enlightened self-interest. . .

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