Is the ‘HeForShe’ campaign a move in the right direction?

UN Women’s HeForShe Campaign Special Event

Emma Watson is backing the United Nation’s ‘HeForShe’ campaign, but is this the right move for gender equality?

Words by Rebecca Pates

As the dust settles across the media from Emma Watson’s revolutionary speech, in support of the recent United Nation’s ‘HeForShe’ campaign, it becomes clearer the impact that her words have had now and hopefully will in subsequent years.  In a world where, despite the advances for equality, society is still arguably predominantly ruled by males, the campaign utilises this to help take another step forward for gender equality.

Feminism in recent years has been characterised as women exclusive and that the only way to gender equality is to congregate a group of solely women to fight for the cause. However, as Watson states within her speech, the main issue is not just about feminism – gender equality applies to men as well. In a society, where males are teased or punished for taking on roles normally associated with females – like a parent – or for showing their emotions and feelings, it is not until this is accepted and valued within our society can gender equality for women take place.

While the wide coverage and the positive response to the campaign would make anyone with an interest in the advancement of gender equality feel like something could happen as a result, there is something in the back of the mind thinking how backwards the whole idea is. Feminism started with a group of females wanting to try and bring equality within a male dominated society. Therefore, it seems a little bit ludicrous that in 2014 women have to rely on males to establish gender equality before any progress for women’s equal rights can be made.

As Watson establishes, when Hilary Clinton made her speech on women’s rights in 1997, it is clear she expected far more change in the seventeen years since. However, it can be suggested that by inviting males to think about change and gender equality, this breaks the stereotype that gender equality is a women exclusive issue. Perhaps we need to think less about feminism, where females are the priority, and refer more towards the words ‘gender equality’. Gender is not singular, it is a plural involving two sexes – and that idea is progress.