HeForShe: A New Approach to Equality

Emma Watson, photo by Georges Biard via Wikimedia Commons

In any conflict or situation, there are always two sides to every story. Feminism has traditionally focused on the female side of gender equality, until now. The United Nations was blown away last week by newly appointed UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson after her moving speech on gender equality. By including men in the feminist movement, Emma Watson brought a new and invigorated view of what feminism means and how everyone can be involved. Feminism, by definition, is the social, political, and economical equality of the sexes. However, as Emma Watson mentioned, this definition has been misinterpreted in our current society. In order to successfully ensure equality of the sexes, stereotypes involving both genders need to be eliminated.

With the launch of a new campaign called HeForShe, Emma Watson is now leading the feminist movement and their new global image. By involving both men and women, HeForShe is attempting to creating a unified group to help fight to ensure that these stereotypes are eliminated, equal pay is established, and educational opportunities are available for everyone. Like the HeForShe campaign, POLSCI 101 has discussed educational equality of opportunity in Louis Menand’s article “Live and Learn: Why we have college?” Menand states three theories that focus on higher education, which each focusing on autonomy, educational equality of opportunity, and meritocracy.

Female Researcher Looks Through Microscope, photo by Rhoda Baer via Wikimedia Commons

Manand’s second theory regarding higher education strives to have both the elites and the masses of society attend college and graduate with a core set of skills that will produce well rounded citizens. Although Menand is referring to the educational system in the United States, his theories can and should be applied to the globe. Unfortunately, equality of educational opportunity for both sexes is not present in every country. As Emma Watson stated, “there is no one country in the world where all women can expect to receive these rights.” Even in the United States, gender inequality is present in our education system. Unequal payment of women for the same work as well as men and women’s stereotypical professions are only a few of the examples of the limitations that both genders face in our education system. For example, female scientists are traditionally not taken as seriously as their male counterparts and male nurses are not socially accepted as well as female nurses. This produces an unequal playing field in the job market and reinforces existing gender roles. To start to erase these issues from our society, we should begin by ensuring that every single person has a basic education. Emma Watson acknowledged the need to open up educational opportunities for women across the globe. If this is followed, like Menand’s second theory, everyone will have the opportunity attend college, pursue the degree and profession they want without judgment, and graduate as competent citizens.

Menand’s third theory references the value of specialized schools and how they are more affordable for a larger section of the American population. This brings into play the financial aspect of an education. If applied on a global scale, we can see how theory three could help remove the financial constraints of attending college that prevent young woman from attending school. In many foreign countries, families do not see a benefit in sending their daughter to college because of the financial and social implications involved. They will instead send their sons to college and their daughter will never receive this opportunity. This stereotype regarding female and male success and place in the world severely limits educational opportunities for women and reinforces existing gender roles. By listening to Emma Watson’s speech, show in the link below, we can slowly begin to break down these barriers surrounding gender inequality and make progress. If these steps are taken to ensure the elimination of stereotypes and the equality of the sexes, we can create an educational environment throughout the world that mirrors Menand’s theories to ensure a better future for our society.

Emma Watson UN Speech Video Excerpt:

http://theconversation.com/emma-watsons-un-speech-what-our-reaction-says-about-feminism-32024

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4 thoughts on “HeForShe: A New Approach to Equality

  1. I loved that you spoke about this because this video was so popularized on Facebook/in media and definitely brings up a new facet to the feminist movement in which men are involved. I agree that this was important. It is important for men to feel included and realize that feminism is not about unfairly giving women more benefits, but about liberating every type of person in different ways.

    One thing you said I didn’t quite agree with… “For example, female scientists are traditionally not taken as seriously as their male counterparts and male nurses are not socially accepted as well as female nurses. This produces an unequal playing field in the job market and reinforces existing gender roles. To start to erase these issues from our society, we should begin by ensuring that every single person has a basic education.” The reason why I don’t agree with this is because in the US even girls and boys/men and women who have received the same levels of education experience criticism at work differently and girls are STILL less likely to go into science and math than boys. So obviously education differences aren’t a problem here… there are more deeply-grounded social expectations for men v. women that need to be eradicated. A transformation of society values both in the US and the world needs to occur so that men and women can experience true equality.

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  2. I like the post and Lotan’s comment. It’s great this campaign is getting attention (I was around the 16,000th person in the world to take the HeForShe pledge). But I agree with Lotan that equal access to education isn’t a sufficient condition. In fact, evidence even from our very own University of Michigan shows not only that there are gender disparities in various fields, in terms of numbers, but that there are gender disparities in how people are evaluated. And that this leads to what we call the “leaky pipeline”: even if or when women enter previously male dominated fields in greater numbers, they also leave those fields at greater rates than men.

    Overall, obviously, the point is that you both and Hermione, I mean, Emma is right: there’s a lot of work to be done.

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  3. Thanks for commenting! I completely agree with both of your statements and they both add more information and valuable arguments. I completely agree that societal change is necessary to completely eradicate gender inequalities and before we can change anything in our educational system, these social expectations and stereotypes need to be dealt with. I think that in order to make sure these stereotypes are eliminated, we need to educate our youth, especially those in foreign countries. People with higher educations tend to have a more expansive overall view of the world and can see problems through different perspectives so if more people worldwide are educated, we could start to change how people view gender equality in a positive way. This could help deal with the criticism women face at certain jobs and the rate at which they leave them in the US by trying to have people understand why their criticism and negative actions are not socially acceptable. I’m not saying that education is the final and best answer to solve this problem (there are definitely many other ways of approaching it) but I’m saying that I believe this is a good first step that we can take to help with the issue of gender inequality worldwide.

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  4. I appreciate your article and your bringing light to HeForShe! However, I also agree with Laton. Right now, here at the U of M, I am receiving the same education as the male sitting next to me in class. Some of my girlfriends attending the School of Engineering have made remarks about feeling put down by the males in their study groups. For example, they’re not taken seriously, or if they understand the material better than a male counterpart, their help to understand is unwanted. This shows that the issue isn’t the institution. Both males and females are receiving the same type of education. The issue is a more of a sociocultural one.

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