by Nicole Chacin
On September 20, 2014, HeForShe was unveiled by British actress and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson, the first ever solidarity movement and campaign of its kind for the United Nations.
The campaign, led by UN Women, is a formal invitation to men all over the world to speak out against gender inequality. The movement uses forms of social networking including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
HeforShe has already amassed over 45,000 male followers in the United States alone by September 30, just ten days following Watson’s speech. This following includes well-known male celebrities such as Harry Stiles, Russell Crowe, Tom Hiddleston, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
In the unveiling of the campaign HeforShe, Watson speaks from the heart about the importance of this movement to her; sharing what it was like growing up with the stereotypes about girls and women being projected on her both in youth and as world-renown actress and model.
She calls the male mentors, teachers, and family supporters who believed in her the “inadvertent feminists” and “gender equality ambassadors” who gave her a strong foundation to flourish in spite of chauvinistic attitudes and behavior.
For the half a year as UN Goodwill Ambassador championing women’s rights and equality, Watson has come to understand the word “feminism” has often been synonymous with man-hating. As a feminist since her teens, Watson notes that she did and does not support man-hating and stands by the true definition of the word “feminism” which holds the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.
“I am from Britain and think it is right that as a woman I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decision-making of my country. I think it is right that socially I am afforded the same respect as men. But sadly I can say that there is no one country in the world where all women can expect to receive these rights.”
For Watson, these rights are “human rights” which both men and women should acknowledge as essential to gender equality. Watson goes further to note that in order to truly address and call attention to the gaps in gender equality, there needs to be room for boys and men to join the conversation and feel comfortable expressing their opinions and feelings as well.
“Men—I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue too.”
Watson feels that men will feel encouraged to join the campaign when they understand gender equality is not a one-sided issue, actually the movement is a joint effort of both men and women to highlight the unfair biases, expectations, and attitudes towards both sexes. Males as well as females can be imprisoned by the stereotypes society and the media circulate.
Watson acknowledges the nervousness she had before coming to speak and presenting this campaign and the fact that the easiest thing is to do nothing and to hide behind the “someday” verbiage so many retreat to. She asks herself, and asks us as well the question: If not me, who? If not now, when?
Not just as a woman, but as a sister, daughter, and future mother I know that I would not want these issues to persist unchallenged. Digesting such a large issue and making a tangible difference is far from easy.
The first big step is to actually acknowledge the problem. My gratitude goes out to Emma Watson for taking this first leap on the world stage to address this issue of many decades in a new light with a refreshing, inclusive format. In a sense, HeforShe is revitalizing and harmonizing a national and global movement by reaching out to both young and old via social media, framing it as a two-sided male and female issue.
The next steps after calling attention to such a campaign, is one of collective action- one that is not dependent on one person or entity- rather one in which we are all called to take part in. Taking Watson’s lead, let us ask ourselves, If not me, who? If not now, when?
Image: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images
Nicole Chacin is a Chicago native and student at the George Washington University where she studies business administration. Nicole aims to obtain a dual masters degree in Law and Business Administration by 2017 and ultimately dreams of working in health policy and administration. This is Nicole’s 2nd year writing for Forté as she had the opportunity to learn about the organization through the first Forté C2B Leadership Conference.