The true beauty of social media is that it helps me to keep my New Year’s resolution of making more of an effort to follow the news and keep in touch with the goings-on in the world without ever having to get off of Facebook or Twitter. In my perusal of the many different feeds of the day, I stumbled across a video of Emma Watson’s speech as the UN Women goodwill ambassador in which she extends an invitation for men and boys to become active advocates for gender equality and launches the campaign He for She. We can expect to see her words quoted and links to the speech posted thousands of times over in the coming weeks, as is often the case when famous people speak up about public, controversial issues.
Hopefully, however, her words spark more than simple interest. ‘Feminism’ has become a dirty word. So many hear ‘feminism’ and expect to see an angry woman, brandishing a sign about the oppressive patriarchy and the need for the reform of all men and a new age in which the rightful matriarchy takes its place. What’s worse is that this skewed and incorrect view of the word has hindered the movement striving for equality in the rights of both men and women. Our society has begun to rebel against the idea of equality with social media campaigns such as Women Against Feminism. From the outset of children’s lives they are directed toward toys that are masculine or feminine, giving little girls dolls and little boys building blocks, sending subliminal messages that men are not meant to nurture and women not meant to construct and these ideas, planted in childhood are carried through to adulthood where men who stay at home to care for their children are scoffed at and women are only a tiny minority of the student population studying engineering.
Sexism is an issue that is socially ingrained and goes far deeper than a distaste for women in power or the belief that a woman’s place is in the home. Many women and men consider themselves feminists yet judge women who wear more revealing clothes than suits their taste. They use words like ‘slut’ and ‘whore’, perpetuating victim-blaming and double standards. Believing that women ought to hold as many and as powerful of positions in government does not excuse the thought that women shouldn’t be body builders because it’s ‘unattractive’ and ‘masculine’. We are met with constant proof of our gender perceptions, many of which our upbringings teach us to accept as black and white truths. However, as the world begins to embrace the tolerance and acceptance of LGBTQ communities, those perceptions of hard and fast gender lines will be challenged more and more. It is vitally important that we recognise that, while the sexes are different, they are not unequal, that equal respect and opportunity should be afforded to both genders. We must stand united as human beings, not just as men and women, and demand equality as a basic human right whatever the sex, race, religion, orientation, or ethnicity. All for equality. All for feminism.