Feminism’s affair with men

Hope Austin

I’m sure many have seen, read about and shared GIFs about Emma Watson’s speech on feminism for the U.N. For those who have not, here’s the gist: Watson, the face of the HeForShe campaign, gave a speech encouraging men to stand with women in solidarity in the fight for gender equality.
In her speech, Watson delivers this whammy of a line:
“How can we affect change in the world, when only half of it is invited or feels welcome to participate into the conversation?”
And she’s got a point there. Gender inequality and imbalances are seen across many developed nations via media and social institutions . Although Congress has achieved a record-breaking status of 100 women in office, this still means women only comprise about 20 percent of Congress.
Worldwide, the stats are not much better. According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, as of July 1, 2014, only 21.8 percent of parliamentarians worldwide are women. The worst part? This number is an increase from 11.3 percent in 1995. Women also make up a whopping 5.9 percent of heads of state and a staggering 7.8 percent of heads of government.
And I need not remind anyone how women’s voices have been systematically silenced. Even Watson recalls how she was called things like “bossy” for having the audacity to speak her mind.
All around the world, women face mockery, silencing and even death if they speak their minds.
And yet Watson believes that it is men, not women, who feel like they’re not welcome in the conversation. This is the very next line in her speech: “Men, I would like to invite you to the conversation. Gender equality is your issue too.”
Here’s my problem: why do we need to convince men that gender equality will benefit them before they can support it? I believe in gender equality because without it, America will never be able to achieve a true democracy. I believe in gender equality because it is necessary for peace. I believe in gender quality because it is the right thing to do.
I understand feminism has an image problem – the man-hating stereotype has been around almost as long as the word “feminist.” However, I don’t think the solution is to give men more of voice than they already have.
Feminist spaces are created by women, for women. The purpose of these spaces is to allow women to have a voice without fear of being silenced. If men feel uncomfortable in these spaces, there is a space for them: it’s called the rest of the world.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Watson. Like most other millennials, I grew up on Harry Potter films. And I love that so many high-profile celebrities, such as Beyoncé and Taylor Swift, are embracing the “F word.”
Ultimately, I agree with what HeForShe is trying to accomplish. Feminists need allies, and a lot of those allies should be men. But as allies, men must understand that their role is not to feel comfortable in women’s spaces – their role is to support women, and educate others to do the same.