We Need that HeForShe

Emma Watson, Hogwarts to the United Nations

We all know Emma Watson from her iconic role in the Harry Potter franchise as Hermione Granger [1] – that tenacious, bossy, but nevertheless brilliant young witch. I’m sure that everyone, myself included, is guilty of watching those films on repeat, savouring each and every moment and never failing to feel that sense of enchantment every time.

WT Hermoine Granger pic
Taken from: https://www.popsugar.com/au/celebrity/Harry-Potter-Actors-Where-Now-35465868#photo-35465840, assessed 2 April 2017.

However, ever since her whirlwind success in the wizarding world, Emma as gone on to do many amazing things with her life.

One of her more notable achievements was being appointed visiting fellow by Oxford college

WT Emma Watson UN Pic
Taken from: http://www.unwomen.org/en/partnership/goodwill-ambassadors/emma-watson

after completing her studies there.[2] More recently, she’s been appointed a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador where she has already been involved in numerous efforts to promote education for girls in places such as Bangladesh and Zambia.[3]

What is “HeForShe”?

Recently, Emma Watson and the UN launched the campaign known as “HeforShe”, the first of its kind in the UN.[4] This campaign moves away from traditionally empowering women to fight for the rights, and instead targets men around the world.

WT HeforShe pic
Taken from: http://www.ox.ac.uk?news/2015-06-18-oxford-university-commits-un-gender-equality-movement, assessed 4 April 2017.

It encourages them to not only support gender equality but to practice it in their everyday lives by not feeling the need to be aggressive and dominant, which would thus remove the stereotype or expectation for women to be submissive.[5]

A few weeks back….

My daughter brought up a talk her school where her teachers talked to the girls about the need to be bold in the world and strive for equal footing with their male counterparts. Then, my wife and I noticed our son, Jake, starring intently at his phone. I asked him why he wasn’t participating in the family discussion and he merely shrugged his shoulders and said: “None of my business Dad”.

It’s funny that a few days after this incident, Emma Watson delivered her now iconic speech at the UN, announcing the launch of the “HeforShe” movement.

Then, it clicked for me.

I wouldn’t be surprised if many of you parents out there have had similar episodes with your kids. And dads, hands up if you’ve found yourself switching off whenever topics on gender equality come up at the workplace or at the dinner table.

To be put simply, male participation in the struggle for equality, at least from my point of view, is “meh” at best. There’s a need for us dudes to get more involved in this whole equality issue. As of now, many of our sons aren’t even aware of the significance of the struggle for gender equality – yes it’s true. It is a struggle. As a result, they don’t feel the need to get involved.

So… what now?

1) Get Started

Many guys I’ve talked to at work or dads I meet when picking the kids up from school are aware of the issue of gender equality but can’t really go on to say anything much. I guess it’s because we see this term so often that we assume we know all about it when actually, we don’t.

We need to know what we’re fighting for before we can actually achieve it. When and why did gender equality become such a big issue? How have we progressed since then? Why does it still have so much relevance in our lives today? All these questions need to be answered before we can even begin to grasp the concept of gender equality itself, and be clear on what we want to achieve.

2) Be Open

One of the major problems that lead to the lack of male participation in gender equality struggles is the need for guys to appear strong and intimidating. As much as we don’t want to admit, there has been an expectation placed on us to constantly be the tough guy who can do it all.

But here lies the problem.

If all guys are tough, that largely leaves women with the choice of being the “beta” in the equation. This was exactly what Emma Watson meant when she said that we needed to “free men”. Guys- it’s OK to cry. It’s OK to ask for help and support. Skip the gym once in a while (but not too much or you’ll end up with the much feared “dad belly”.)

By willingly opening ourselves up a little more, showing a little more emotion and vulnerability, and that we’re, well, humans, it goes a long way in helping attain gender equality.

WT Be Open
Taken from: http://howtolaunch.com/howtolaunch/be-open-minded-and-willing-to-change-direction/

I feel especially strongly about this for us dads. We need to be open with our wives about how we feel to make sure we don’t overshadow them by coming across as dominant and “untouchable”.

3) Get Involved

With steps 1 and 2 out of the way, it’s time to put your mindset into action. Take the conscious effort to be that change you want to see if the world (as clichéd as it sounds). Women have already done an amazing job, from getting the vote in 1920[6] to the various activists and organisations you see around you today. It’s now our turn, as overdue as it may be, to carry on the work.

Make the effort to talk about this issue, especially in the family setting with our kids. If we work on educating the younger generation, I’m confident that they’ll grow up with the values of inclusiveness and the motivation to strive for change!

For more information on the HeForShe campaign, visit their website at http://www.heforshe.org/en

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, and do stop by again for more family discussions on gender equality. Till next time!

 

[1] “Emma Watson,” Glamour UK, accessed 2 April 2017, http://www.glamourmagazine.co.uk/person/emma-watson/.

[2] “Oxford College Appoints Benedict Cumberbatch and Emma Watson,” The Guardian, assessed 2 April 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/feb/05/oxford-college-appoints-benedict-cumberbatch-emma-watson.

[3] “UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson,” UN Women, accessed 4 April 2017, http://www.unwomen.org/en/partnerships/goodwill-ambassadors/emma-watson.

[4] “Our Mission,” HeforShe, accessed 2 April 2017, http://www.heforshe.org/en/our-mission.

[5] “Emma Watson Gender Equality Is Your Issue Too,” UN Women, accessed 2 April 2017, http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2014/9/emma-watson-gender-equality-is-your-issue-too.

[6] “19th Amendment – Women’s History,” HISTORY.com, accessed 2 April 2017, http://www.history.com/topics/womens-history/19th-amendment.

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