HeForShe – should I get involved?

heforshe

The full-time gender pay gap is 10% [1]. It will take at least 75 years to fix if we make no concerted effort to fix it [2].

1 in 2 boys and 1 in 3 girls believe it is okay to sometimes hurt a woman or force her to have sex. Even more shockingly, 1 in 3 teenage girls have actually experienced sexual violence from a partner [3].

It will take until 2086 before rural African girls can all have a secondary education [2]. Unless we act now.

The HeForShe campaign is on way you can help to end this inequality. Led by UN Women, it aims to engage men and boys in the fight for gender equality. It is a misunderstood notion that feminism is about “men-hating”, and it is because of this stereotype that many have shied away from engaging with women’s rights and feminist causes. However, if men and boys do not stand with women and girls in this fight, there will never be any winners.

Through uniting, men and boys can recognise that it is not only girls and women that are affected by gender inequality. It negatively impacts us all. The campaign, fronted by Emma Watson, also draws attention to the pressures places on men in society through the traditional notion of masculinity, with one statistic shocking me more than any other as I researched the campaign: suicide is the biggest killer of men aged 20 to 49. But why? Seeking help makes you less of a man, according to society.

However, HeForShe has been heavily criticised, with many proclaiming that the campaign is targeted at the white, wealthy, able-bodied women of the world, according to Mia McKenzie, a writer for Black Girl Dangerous [4]. Not once in her speech did she mention the LGBQT community, nor the woman of colour who earn dramatically less then their white male counterparts (in the US, Black women earn 64% of their white male counterparts, while Latina women earn just 53%). Neither did Watson mention the disabled or the homeless. So while everyone is in the same boat, it is the white, wealthy and able-bodied that is steering it.

McKenzie states that it is the centralisation of the most privileged in conversations around gender inequality that is the barrier. She says that the reason marriage equality is one of the mainstream LGBQT issues is because the face of the debate is white, male and well-off. Nowhere in the conversation are the “homeless queer youth or struggling elders” included. By including everyone in the conversation, gender equality is a possibility.

The first stage of the HeFor She campaign is underway and they are trying to get men and boys to commit to take action – all it takes is their name, email and country of residence. However, it’s important to remember that clicking a button doesn’t fix gender inequality. It shows an interest to take action and relies on people to act on it.

Towards the end of 2015, we expect HeForShe to release a report about their 10x10x10 initiative. Following this will be guides on how universities, workplaces and communities can remove inequality in their respective institutions. Little steps can help to achieve bigger goals.

Has this campaign got you interested in gender equality and women’s rights? Or has it made you feel alienated? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

References:

[1] King, M. (2012) ‘Gender pay gap falls for full-time workers’. The Guardian, 22 November. Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2012/nov/22/gender-pay-gap-falls-full-time-workers (Accessed: 30 March 2015).

[2] HeForShe (2014) Emma Watson HeForShe Speech at the United Nations | UN Women 2014. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0Dg226G2Z8 (Accessed: 30 March 2015).

[3] End Violence Against Women (n.d.) Preventing violence against women. Available at: http://www.endviolenceagainstwomen.org.uk/preventing-violence-against-women (Accessed 30 March 2015).

[4] Mckenzie, M. (2014) Why I’m not really here for Emma Watson’s feminism speech at the U.N. Available at: http://www.blackgirldangerous.org/2014/09/im-really-emma-watsons-feminism-speech-u-n/ (Accessed 10 April 2015).

Words: Joshua Allerton
Image: Tracy Ryan

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