To mark International Women’s Day 2015 Emma Watson, in her role as the face of the HeForShe campaign, gave a sprawling hour long interview on the campaign to Greg James (of all people… so that’s what he looks like). As ever she was an idiosyncratic mix of charming and wonderfully awkward speaking passionately about subjects as diverse as the discrimination in her own life to awkward dates (I hear you Sister) to the negative impact of inequality on men.
If you’re unfamiliar with Watson’s work she is probably most famous for playing Hermione – the one who actually got all of the shit done – in Harry Potter but since last year she has taken on the mantel of UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador which despite being a bit of a mouthful is something we have needed for literally ages already.
Watson opened the interview with such an important point: “gender equality historically has been predominantly a women’s movement for women but I think the impact of gender inequality and how its actually been affecting men hasn’t been addressed.”
Feminism is not a women’s issue: it’s a human one.
If any of us are oppressed or discriminated against then – as a whole – we make up less than the sum of our parts. We have lost the input of those oppressed people, we are dragging them along when they could be helping us carry the load. As Watson says at the very end of the interview by discriminating against women, humanity is a bird flying with one wing clipped – just think how much higher we could fly if both wings were free – a beautifully apt metaphor originating from American Feminist Gloria Steinem.
Watson spoke of the damaging effects on men due to how our society “devalues the she”. By making stereotypically female traits less valuable we devalue everyone who has them regardless of gender. She mentions how truly horrifying she finds the still prevalent expectation that men cannot cry, I think no one says it better than whoever it was that made up that quote that was falsely attributed to Charlotte Bronte; “Crying does not indicate that you are weak. Since birth, it has always been a sign that you are alive.”
By boxing up parts of the human condition and segregating them by gender we ourselves break apart, we deny the masculine in a woman and the feminine in a man. We are nowhere near as binary as we imagine, we are one very long sliding scale of human nature.
Watson also spoke about the confusion which surrounds the term “feminist”. In what I think is probably the final word on the matter (and something i’m considering having put on a t-shirt) she said “If you believe in equality, you’re a feminist.” Too much of the time the feminist movement is equated with hate, man hating, and it’s not about that at all. It is simply about equality, about having the same opportunities despite your gender.
This campaign is something we have needed for a long time, to stretch that bird analogy just a little further: we can only fly high enough to reach equality if both our wings are free. We need everyone to recognise and stand up to discrimination in whatever shape or form it takes. This could be our first step in learning how to fly.
To watch the full interview check out the HeForShe Facebook page.
Blog by Jodie Major for Shoreditch Sisters WI