Emma Watson invited men into “the movement” and the feminist world is in uproar — split into the yay and naysayers. It’s even gone to the extent of fractures along racial (according to one blogger it’s white feminists who support her), regional or even socio-economic background.
But identity aside there is some good and bad to Watson’s UN speech. There’s the idea that “begging” men to join the movement is a problem because it reinforces patriarchy by opening more space for them to dominate. I’ve seen the way the male presence in a female space can overshadow everything.
What of the idea that patriarchy is actually hurting all of us? That men and women are bound and subjugated by gender stereotypes?
The question is: Can we really expect men to help further the feminist bandwagon because it’s a good cause or because it’s right? I understand that the cause of the polar bears, pandas and rhinos is a pretty good one but I’m not the biggest supporter in the world. You could say that I’m functioning from a place of human privilege.
Frankly I do not see what’s in it for me.
Watson’s formal invitation could be the answer to the problem men have with feminism. It’s not human nature to naturally want to give up what you see as “yours” for the greater good.
Before the feminist sphere begins to flip out I am not comparing women’s causes to animal causes, I’m just saying that humans look at the average situation and think “What I can get out of this?”.
Take whatever injustice you want: colonisation, slavery, apartheid. The oppressors had their backs against the wall and it was in their best interest to make things better for the oppressed as it made things better for everyone.
Even human rights as a concept was born because the world was reeling from the effects of World WarII. It wasn’t because babies looked cuter in a onesie. It was because everyone had seen that the current way of doing things was universally destructive and only through respecting humanity could we all move forward.
Many reading this article believe in women’s rights but won’t easily give the tablet/ smartphone/ laptop they’re reading it on to the poor. Technically giving to the poor is the right thing but to do that would threaten your privilege as a person of means.
It’s been my experience that those of privilege are not often accepted in certain spaces. White people are not very welcome in black movements, straight people into queer spaces and so on. Men are not really welcome in feminist spaces.
This is problematic because you must engage with the other side. Even though freedom does come from within there is no arguing that there is a very external element to it.
Those who oppress form a core part of the act of oppression. As a core part of the problem they cannot be excluded. It’s part of the school of thought that you do not teach women how not to get raped, teach men how not to rape.
What Watson tried to do, though problematic, is engage a strategy that’s often disregarded by supporters of women’s rights (despite many arguing it’s not a novel idea): Let men know that this is a general problem.
We must not forget that there a great number of men who purport to be “feminists” when really all they have is a saviour complex and the worst case of “the little ladies cannot do it by themselves”. These men are not helpful to engage with. It’s the everyday man who has internalised all the good (and bad) of being a man.
As bell hooks said “patriarchy is the single most life-threating disease threatening the male body”.
We can start thinking about it in this way: What is in it for everyone? This is not putting men at the centre of it, it’s making sure we all come off better for it.
Once everyone is involved it stops being “a movement” and starts becoming a reality.