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The HeforShe Conversation: Why Emma Watson Wants You Involved

International Women’s Day was globaly recognized this past Sunday, March 8. In celebration of this, Emma Watson held a live stream conference on Facebook to discuss her organization HeforShe. HeforShe is a solidarity movement that is working to unite both sides of humanity in support for one another, especially in terms of gender equality. Over the course of an hour, Watson took questions from her Facebook followers as well as fans from the audience to address her take on feminism and gender equality. Here are a few key highlights from her live steam.

“Getting men into the gender equality conversation is important”

Watson has four brothers who have had a large influence on her acceptance to be the lead spokesperson for HeforShe.  Her brothers have faced gender inequality as men, mainly for being criticized for not acting “manly.”There were also situations where her brothers’ friends have talked about girls in a way that they knew was negative towards women which made them uncomfortable because of it. As a whole, men haven’t been given the space to have a conversation on how gender inequality has affected them and HeforShe wants to give them the space to address those issues. By doing so, the conversation can begin on how society as a whole can work to change these issues. Watson emphasized that by having everyone talking to each other on how gender inequality is negatively affecting all of society, the movement toward gender equality can happen faster.

“Feminism does not mean man-hating and chivarly does not mean sexism”

Many women in the public eye have previously strayed away from labeling themselves as a feminist due to the negative connotation behind it. “Feminism is empowering the support for women and this can be linked to men and women equally. If you are in support of equality for all, you are a feminist, plain and simple.” For the opposite side of gender equality, chivarly shouldn’t be group into the idea of sexism. Holding the door open for a women is culturally seen as a proper gesture. This is completely normal, just so it is then also acceptable that women holding the door open for a man is a nice action. A woman can ask a man out and pay for dinner dates which have so far been seen as actions that only a man can initiate. The main point Watson wants everyone to understand about chivarly is that is needs to be consensual for both parties involved. If someone on either side is uncomfortable, they have the right to speak up and tell the other person that the situation is making them feel awkward and not be criticized saying something. Education about gender equality needs to start out at younger ages, and it can be as simple as saying that playing with girls is just as nice as playing with boys. Watson’s analogy of this was something her younger sister wanted so say to the boys in her life, “I just want them to want to play with us.” Women just want to be included.

“HeforShe is not men saving women”

Watson wants to strongly emphasize that HeforShe is not for men to save women from gender inequality. “Women are already in the club because it is our moment. Its an equality club for both gender.” Feminine qualities are valued less in our culture and society, and anyone who expresses them can and are criticized and discriminated for it. Society needs to talk about how men have a stigma on them that they are only allowed to act “masculine.” “The social view of men is that they can’t cry or express themselves or be passionate about something because they aren’t allowed to outwardly show emotions. Those emotions are what make people human, but for men it is wrong to express them because they belong to women. The entire aspect of humanity does not belong simply to males or females; they belong to all of us. There also needs to be the social revelation that men are victims of abuse and violence as well. Nonviolence should happen on all levels, not to just cease for women exclusively or just cease for men. Equality cannot be one-sided in a culture or society; it needs to be for all, with participation from all.

“Take a stand and say something”

The major roadblock that is preventing change from occurring in favor of gender equality is that no one will take a stand and say something about it.  People in the workforce who notice that their female co-workers are earning less money for doing the same work as their male counterparts should confront that issue. If there is a negative conversation about women happening around or a woman is being put down because of her gender, every day people needs to speak up. Gender inequality will not go away if a conversation is not started about how society doesn’t acknowledge that it is happening all around in daily situations. “Be brave and make the change, stand up and say something. We are all people, we are all human beings and deserve the same treatment.”  Everyone has to be willing to question the ideals that it is acceptable for femininity to be less than masculinity, or that it is acceptable for men to have more accesssability in the world than women.

“If not me than who; if not now than when”

All women need to try to reach out globally to achieve equality on an international level.  The world has to understand that gender inequality excludes half of its population and is leaving out a part of this world that could bring so much to the table. Watson lamented that, “so much potential is wasted because girls aren’t encouraged like boys are on many levels, especially in third world countries.” What women have achieved so far in other countries should be extended outwards because all women, no matter where they are or what their situation is, should be excluded from the opportunities women elsewhere have been given. These problems should be addressed now because they are not getting any better. Though women rights have improved over time, gender equality has not been fully reached. The sense of urgency needs to be now, otherwise the situation will remain as inequal.

Watson joked that she refuses to die until she gets to see an equal number of women in all work forces and men are able to fully express themselves; until oppressing each other is no longer an issue. The narrow definition of masculinity and femininity needs to be expanded outwards to include both parts of the human race. To be a part of the HeforShe conversation, Watson urges everyone to check out heforshe.org and sign the commitment of gender equality. The live stream is up on Watson’s Facebook page in a four part video, for those who missed the live stream on Sunday or for anyone else who wishes to view the full conversation.  

*all pictures were taken from Emma Watson’s Facebook and Instagram pages

 

Jessica is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Stout and is currently finishing a bachlor's degree in Professional Communication and Emerging Media with a concentration in Applied Journalism. She has a specification in Health and Nutrition and would like to combine her fields to work in the health care setting as a social media coordinator or with public relations once she graduates collge in May 2015. "Every day I am inspired by words." You can follow Jessica on Twitter @jess_hovel.
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