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“Gender equality is your issue too.” That was the message to men from Emma Watson, Harry Potter star and now United Nations Women Goodwill Ambassador, in her widely hailed U.N. speech earlier this week announcing a new feminist campaign with a “formal invitation” to male allies to join. Noting that men suffer from sexism in their own ways, Watson asked, “How can we affect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation?” Truer words were never spoken. Too bad they are belied by the campaign itself, which is called “HeForShe” and asks men to pledge to “take action against all forms of violence and discrimination faced by women and girls” but says nothing about problems affecting men and boys.
Watson clearly believes that feminism — which, she stressed, is about equality and not bashing men — will also solve men’s problems. But, unfortunately, feminism in its present form has too often ignored sexist biases against males, and sometimes has actively contributed to them. Until that changes, the movement for gender equality will be incomplete.
Take one of the men’s issues Watson mentioned in her speech: seeing her divorced father’s role as a parent “valued less by society” than her mother’s. It is true that in the 1970s and 1980s, feminist challenges to discriminatory, sex-specific laws helped end formal preferences for mothers in child custody matters. But as fathers began to fight against more covert anti-male biases in the court system, most feminists sided with mothers.
There are plenty of other examples. The women’s movement has fought, rightly, for more societal attention to domestic abuse and sexual violence. But male victims of these crimes still tend to get short shrift, from the media and activists alike. Despite several recent high-profile recent sexual assault cases in which the victims were teenage girls, disturbing cases in which boys were victimized — by other boys or by girls — have received far less publicity and sparked little outrage. Experiments have shown that while people are quick to intervene when a man in a staged public quarrel becomes physically abusive to his girlfriend, reactions to a similar situation with the genders reversed mostly range from indifference to amusement or even sympathy for the woman. To a large extent, as feminists sometimes point out, these attitudes stem from traditional gender norms which treat victimhood, especially at a woman’s hands, as unmanly. But today’s mainstream feminism, which regards sexual assault and domestic violence as byproducts of male power over women, tends to reinforce rather than challenge such double standards.
Just in the past few days, many feminist commentators have taken great umbrage at suggestions that soccer star Hope Solo, currently facing charges for assaulting her sister and teenage nephew, deserves similar censure to football player Ray Rice, who was caught on video striking his fiancée. Their argument boils down to the assertion that violence by men toward their female partners should be singled out because it’s a bigger problem than female violence toward family members. Meanwhile, in Watson’s native England, activists from women’s organizations recently blamed the shortage of services for abused women on efforts to accommodate abused men (despite the fact that, as Guardian columnist and blogger Ally Fogg demonstrated, even the lowest estimates of the prevalence of domestic violence against men suggest that male victims are far less likely than women to get help).
Watson deserves credit for wanting to end the idea that “fighting for women’s rights [is] synonymous with man-hating.” But she cannot do that if she treats such notions only as unfair stereotypes. How about addressing this message to feminists who complain about being “asked to modify our language so we don’t hurt men’s feelings” when talking about misogyny — for instance, not to generalize about all men as oppressors? Or to those who argue that “Kill all men” mugs and “I bathe in male tears” T-shirts are a great way to celebrate women’s empowerment and separate the “cool dudes” who get the joke from the “dumb bros”? Or to those who accuse a feminist woman of “victim-blaming” for defending her son against a sexual assault accusation — even one of which he is eventually cleared?
Men must, indeed, “feel welcome to participate in the conversation” about gender issues. But very few will do so if that “conversation” amounts to being told to “shut up and listen” while women talk about the horrible things men do to women, and being labeled a misogynist for daring to point out that bad things happen to men too and that women are not always innocent victims in gender conflicts. A real conversation must let men talk not only about feminist-approved topics such as gender stereotypes that keep them from expressing their feelings, but about more controversial concerns: wrongful accusations of rape; sexual harassment policies that selectively penalize men for innocuous banter; lack of options to avoid unwanted parenthood once conception has occurred. Such a conversation would also acknowledge that pressures on men to be successful come not only from “the patriarchy” but, often, from women as well. And it would include an honest discussion of parenthood, including many women’s reluctance to give up or share the primary caregiver role.
It goes without saying that these are “First World problems.” In far too many countries around the world, women still lack basic rights and patriarchy remains very real (though it is worth noting that even in those places, men and boys often have to deal with gender-specific hardships, from forced recruitment into war to mass violence that singles out males). But in the industrial democracies of North America and Europe, the revolution in women’s rights over the past century has been a stunning success — and, while there is still work to be done, it must include the other side of that revolution. Not “he for she,” but “She and he for us.”
Cathy Young is a contributing editor at Reason magazine.Here's What 20 Famous Women Think About Feminism "People have sorely messed up the definition of feminism. It isn’t saying this is wrong and this is right," said Chrissy Teigen during a Variety event in 2014, adding that husband John Legend also identifies: "He’s a bigger feminist than I am! He actually teaches me a lot about the way women should be perceived." D Dipasupil—Getty Images for Extra The Twilight actress reacted to women rejecting feminism during a Daily Beast interview in October: "That’s such a strange thing to say, isn’t it? Like, what do you mean? Do you not believe in equality for men and women? I think it’s a response to overly-aggressive types." Loic Venance—AFP/Getty Images
Emma Watson at a UN Women speech in September. "Men-- I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender Equality is your issue, too."Anthony Harvey—Getty Images
Halle Berry told Ebony in April. “And Gloria Steinem—these are people who, as I was growing, I was moved by and impacted by and thought very deeply about.”Joe Scarnici—Getty Images Sinead O'Connor told The Guardian in July. “I wouldn’t label myself anything, certainly not something with an ‘ism’ or an ‘ist’ at the end of it. I’m not interested in anything that is in any way excluding of men.” " data-action="gallery-slide-image">
Sinead O'Connor told The Guardian in July. “I wouldn’t label myself anything, certainly not something with an ‘ism’ or an ‘ist’ at the end of it. I’m not interested in anything that is in any way excluding of men.”Jason Kempin—Getty Images Kelly Clarkson told TIME last year. “I love that I’m being taken care of, and I have a man that’s an actual leader. I’m not a feminist in that sense … but I’ve worked really hard since I was 19." " data-action="gallery-slide-image">
Kelly Clarkson told TIME last year. “I love that I’m being taken care of, and I have a man that’s an actual leader. I’m not a feminist in that sense … but I’ve worked really hard since I was 19."Christopher Polk—Getty Images
Leighton Meester told OOTD magazine in February about her biggest role model. "American writer Betty Friedan — she fought for gender equality and wrote the great book The Feminine Mystique which sparked the beginning of a second-wave feminism,” Meester said. “I believe in equal rights for men and women.”D Dipasupil—FilmMagic
Ellen Page told The Guardian in 2013. "Maybe some women just don’t care. But how could it be any more obvious that we still live in a patriarchal world when feminism is a bad word?”Dave Kotinsky—Getty Images
Lana Del Rey told Fader magazine in their summer 2014 issue. “I’m more interested in, you know, SpaceX and Tesla, what’s going to happen with our intergalactic possibilities."(Tabatha Fireman—Redferns/Getty Images)
Rashida Jones said in 2013. “I believe in the unadulterated advancement of women. And we have so far to go still.”Christopher Polk—NBC/Getty Images
Jenny Slate told MTV News in June. “I think that unfortunately people who are maybe threatened by feminism think that it’s about setting your bra on fire and being aggressive, and I think that’s really wrong and really dangerous.”Jason Kempin—Getty Images
Katy Perry told an Australian radio host in March. “I used to not really understand what that word meant, and now that I do, it just means that I love myself as a female and I also love men.”Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images
Amy Poehler says she's confused by how many women deny that they're feminists, “but then they go on to explain what they support and live by — it’s feminism exactly,” she told Elle magazine in January. "That’s like someone being like, ‘I don’t really believe in cars, but I drive one every day and I love that it gets me places and makes life so much easier and faster and I don’t know what I would do without it.’”Jason Kempin—NBC/Getty Images
Beyonce wrote in an essay titled "Gender Equality is a Myth" in January. She also famously included an excerpt from Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TEDx talk in her song, "Flawless."Myrna Suarez—WireImage
Miley Cyrus told the BBC last November.Julio Cesar Aguilar—AFP/Getty Images Taylor Swift said in reaction to Emma Watson's speech at the UN in September. "Because I would have understood it. And then earlier on in my life I would have proudly claimed I was a feminist because I would have understood what the word means."" data-action="gallery-slide-image">
Taylor Swift said in reaction to Emma Watson's speech at the UN in September. "Because I would have understood it. And then earlier on in my life I would have proudly claimed I was a feminist because I would have understood what the word means."Isaac Brekken—Getty Images
Lena Dunham told Metro in 2013. “Do you believe that women should be paid the same for doing the same jobs? Do you believe that women should be allowed to leave the house? Do you think that women and men both deserve equal rights? Great, then you’re a feminist.”Michael Buckner—Getty Images Shailene Woodley's response when TIME asked her whether she considered herself a feminist in May. "I think the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from the power’ is never going to work out because you need balance…My biggest thing is really sisterhood more than feminism.” " data-action="gallery-slide-image">
Shailene Woodley's response when TIME asked her whether she considered herself a feminist in May. "I think the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from the power’ is never going to work out because you need balance…My biggest thing is really sisterhood more than feminism.”Dave J Hogan—Getty Images
Lady Gaga told the LA Times in 2009. “I find that men get away with saying a lot in this business, and that women get away with saying very little . . . In my opinion, women need and want someone to look up to that they feel have the full sense of who they are, and says, ‘I’m great.’ “Kevin Mazur—WireImage
Salma Hayek told Stylist in 2012. “I don’t think we are the same, women and men. We’re different. But I don’t think we are less than men. There are more women than men in the world – ask any single woman! So it is shocking that men are in more positions of power.”
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Source : http://time.com/3432838/emma-watson-feminism-men-women/