On September 20, 2014, Emma Watson delivered a speech to the United Nations promoting the HeForShe campaign on gender equality. As a recently appointed U.N. Women Goodwill Ambassador, she expressed her advocacy for feminism and spoke of her experiences as a woman with preconceived gender roles in society. HeForShe, an organization aiming to end gender inequality, puts a focus on a males and their pivotal and necessary roles in contributing to the movement.
When listening to her speech, two sentences deeply resonated with me: “But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word. Women are choosing not to identify as feminists.”
During any conversation on gender equality, when asked if I was a feminist, I would respond: “I’m not a feminist, but I am a female, so of course I support women’s rights.” Why couldn’t I simply respond affirmatively? Emma Watson answered that question for me. Identifying as a feminist is unpopular. Society holds a constricted and stereotypical view on the word and thus discourages many to acknowledge its sustenance.
I chose not to call myself a feminist because my own view of the word was molded by society’s scrutiny. I knew if I outright proclaimed this identity, I would encounter disapproval from others. But what we must understand is this disapproval (which is spewed from those who deny the need for gender equality) is fabricated by people who are simply misinformed.
You don’t have to be feminine to be a feminist. A feminist, in simple terms, believes in the equality between sexes on every societal level, may it be political, economic or social. Men can be feminists. In fact, feminism is often synonymous with “man-hating” and a false claim that women aim to conquer men in all aspects. This is incorrect! We are seeking liberation from a patriarch society – not the destruction of the success of men. Gender equality rests in the hands of both women and men.
A major gap separates the weekly wage between full-time men and women in the workforce. Women earn a median weekly wage that’s only 81% of a man’s weekly median wage. In the last 20 years, the percentage of women in areas of superiority and management has risen a mere 3%. Of the 100 seats in the Senate, 20 of them are occupied by women. Out of 435 seats in the House, 79 are women. And we have never had a woman president.
How can women strive in a society that views them as submissive, weak and unqualified? How can the women of our nation’s population be held to the same standards and expectations as the men? We must truly know where our priorities lie: a hopeful future for the movement against gender inequality. I’ve made a change and I hope you’ll consider doing the same.
I’m Emily and I’m a feminist.