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On Saturday, Sept. 20, U.N. Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson gave a stunning speech about women’s rights.* Stunning. In it, she talked about the inequality women face every day, everywhere in the world. She related her own personal experience (being sexualized at a young age, having male friends who couldn’t express their feelings for worry of being seen as unmasculine, and more) as well as giving the broader context of gender bias.
Watch it. It’s well worth a few minutes of your time. (The transcript is also available.)
There is far too much to quote here, but I think the most important part was right at the beginning:
I am reaching out to you because we need your help. We want to end gender inequality. And to do this we need everyone involved. …
We want to try and galvanize as many men and boys as possible to be advocates for change. And we don’t just want to talk about it, we want to try and make sure it’s tangible.
I agree; feminism without men involved and advocating for women is a hopeless undertaking. We are all a part of this, and that’s why Watson announced HeForShe, a United Nations initiative to encourage men to speak up for women’s rights. I signed up to back HeForShe with my voice, and with my words.
I will admit: This isn’t easy. Despite having written many times on this issue—for International Woman’s Day, against the hatred some men have for feminism (and, sadly, some women have too), about spotlighting the everyday sexism in society, supporting a friend’s art exhibit that speaks out against misogyny, even on how discussing the topic of feminism is derailed right out of the gate—but this is still difficult. There are people who knee-jerk violently against even the idea that men and women should have equal rights, and while they are few, they are so very, very loud. (Mark my words: The comments on this very post will show just why this sort of thing is needed; see Lewis' law.)
Some will go to any lengths to oppress women; loathsome knuckle-dragging Men’s Rights Advocates and their ilk have already shown what they will do in order to shut women up. I’ve seen many, many media outlets make that the story, but I refuse to do so; they crave the attention, and I will not feed it to them.
Update, Sept. 24 at 16:30 UTC: Apparently, the threat to release nude photos of Watson was a hoax. At this time the details aren't clear, but it may have been an attempt to shame the 4chan site, or it may have just been a marketing ploy. However, this doesn't change the importance or the meaning of HeForShe—certainly not, given the tenor and scope of online misogyny, especially recently.
This isn’t about them. It’s about women, and men supporting them. It’s about all of us. And doing this isn’t white-knighting, it isn’t mansplaining, and it isn’t weak, or unmanly. It is, quite simply, doing what’s right and standing up for others.
I have no claim to solutions for these problems; I cannot hope to know how to stop the hatred and violence and oppression and othering of women on the Internet and in the world.
But I know how to stand up for my friends. I know how to write, and how to make myself heard. And I can hope that other men will do this as well, because while I don’t know the whole solution, I know a part of it, a significant part of it, is just showing that we are listening, that we care, and we want to help.
And that’s why I stand with Emma Watson.
*Correction, Sept. 23, 2014: The day of Ms. Watson's speech was at first incorrectly listed as Sunday.