When I was three, and Margaret Thatcher resigned, I turned to my mother with the question: “Can a man BE Prime Minister Mummy?” I was never taught that women were the lesser gender.
At three, I didn’t know that my teenage years would be judged for my physicality over my mental capabilities, that my creativity and enthusiasm would be termed ‘bossiness’, or that teenage boys would act lust-filled behind me in class merely to cause my nervous, hard working and slightly chubby adolescent self to shame.
In the face of this discrimination I clung to feminism. Yet, many treated the word feminism as taboo- a synonym for bra-burning, scowl-wearing man haters, who long for a world or female rule and artificial reproduction free of the masculine.
Yesterday, Emma Watson (Hermione Granger for the less celebrity aware) gave a speech to the UN highlighting the new campaign He For She, which corrected this destructive misconception, and inviting the male population to join the movement towards gender equality. After all, that is what feminism is about- equality not exclusion.
I am a feminist, and I do not hate men. I even married one.
Despite my husband’s belief in equality he shied from the word feminism, for fear of its negative connotations. Yet after witnessing the sexual discrimination in his workplace, he now classes himself a feminist.
If you believe in gender equality, you are a feminist. If you do not believe in it, you need to wake up.
Emma’s impassioned plea asks men to pick up the sword and fight alongside women, to end gender injustice and create a better world.
Vanity Fair quotes the actresses’ inspiring speech, “I think it is right I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decisions that affect my life. I think it is right that socially, I am afforded the same respect as men.”
There are many people out there who believe the feminist movement is out-dated and no longer required.
They paint feminists as angry and ugly. To them I would ask, what about the pay gap? What about rape victims? What about female genital mutilation and forced marriages, or the sad fact that at the start of 2014 only 23% of MP’s were women?
Feminism is gender equality, and men need it too. I have seen a little boy who was told he couldn’t have a book just because it was ‘girly’.
I have heard men called ‘pussies’ for displaying emotion more times than I can count.
We are more than our gender: we are people. We cannot let fear of a word get in the way of the quest for equality.
As Hermione campaigned for House Elves with S.P.E.W. in Rowling’s tale, Watson is sounding a call for feminists (male and female): no magic wand can create gender equality, we have to fight for it.
Written by Hannah Cooper (MA Journalism student of Birkbeck College)