Emma Watson (or Hermione, the little witch from Harry Potter, as she herself points out) held a remarkable speech at the UN, whereby she formally invited all men to join the feminist cause in honour of the new „HeForShe“ gender equality campaign.
Emma’s speech was perfect. It was strong, yet subtle. It was beautiful, but bold and brilliant. It was inviting, polite and devoid of anger. It was exactly the kind of speech that is required from a female and/or feminist ambassador; it was almost too perfect.
Not a statistic but a tragedy
But most of all Emma’s speech was honest. It was honest about her rather remarkable position of privilege and the lack of genuinely brutal sexist attacks her path to feminism has been met with:
„When I was eight, I was confused about being called „bossy“ because I wanted to direct the plays we would put on for our parents. But the boys were not. When at 14, I started to be sexualized by certain elements of the media, when at 15, my girlfriends started dropping out of their beloved sports teams because they didn’t want to appear to muscle-y, when at 18, my male friends were unable to express their feelings, I decided I was feminist.“
Emma spoke of rights and freedoms, of equality and the “idea” of feminism in the abstract. But throughout her speech, her calm words, the reiteration of facts and the research she had done was accompanied by a quivering voice and a deep sense of sadness. This sadness is not a result of her personal experiences, but of the reality of which she did not speak and, due to the formality of the event, could not speak. A reality that is born out of the fact that we are and continue to be – in the most brutal of forms – the weaker sex.
As women, we are constantly being told to be strong and virtuous. I tell myself this and I say it to my colleagues. We are told to act as symbols of the kind of equality and empowerment we envision and deserve. But more often than not, women – across the world – are stepped on, they are silenced and shut-out, they are dehumanized, beaten, raped and sometimes even shot – three, four, five times – more often than not, by men.
Women who enter the workforce do so with significantly less chances and this is not perceived as an accident, but as a fact of life. Women that fall pregnant are expected to make unbearable sacrifices and yet we are constantly confronted with question of child bearing and only one in a thousand women has the audacity to answer as cooley as Zooey Deschanel: “I’m not goint to answer that question. I don’t think people ask men those questions”.
The fact that there is no country in the world with full gender equality is not a statistic but a tragedy.
Most women learn from a very early age that they need to respect and even fear men. Not out of a sense of virtue or moral dogma but as a mode of survival. It starts with silly pranks on playgrounds, with cars slowing down as they pass teenage girls walking home at dusks and ends with college rape culture and snide comments in the office, we’ve all been victims of.
Violent predators with irrational instincts
There are no winners in the continuation of this misogynist game. Not only because the domestic activities of child caring men, such as Emma Watson’s father, are not valued by society. But because, more often than is fair or justified, men are, at parties and in dark alleys, feared as perpetrators, as violent predators with irrational instincts.
Women are told to guard themselves with pepper-spray, strange undergarments and intoxication-sensitive nail polish. These are not only the kinds of societies where you don’t want your daughter to leave the house in a short skirt but also the kind where your son is likely to be confronted with a degree of contempt he does not deserve. Emma says:
“We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see that that they are and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence.“
To this day, women are still the weaker sex. This is not only bad for women it is bad for everyone.
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