By [Ally Friedman ’15] [Managing Editor]
In our last issue we published two separate articles about Emma Watson’s speech at the UN, where she launched the HeForShe campaign and publicly confirmed that Hermione is indeed a proud feminist. Clearly, the authors of both these articles were pretty amped about Emma. Like any self-respecting member of Pottermore, I too am an Emma fan, but I found her speech to be problematic.
I’m not the only one, of course. The video of Emma’s speech was released amidst a slew of headlines heralding it “groundbreaking” and “game-changing”. Shortly after these links appeared on your newsfeed, they were followed by the Internet’s predictable second wave of criticisms. Feminists from every corner of the blogosphere emerged to express their dismay over Emma’s male-centric gender equality campaign.
Certainly, there is something unsettling about the very notion of a women’s movement that relies on, and even formally invites, men to back them up. At one point Emma discusses various ways in which men have also been harmed by gender stereotypes, stating that, “men don’t have the benefits of equality, either.”
What Emma does not acknowledge is that men do have the benefits of inequality. Men have always reaped the benefits of inequality, intentionally or not. Emma does not acknowledge the entrenched power structures that have afforded men innumerable economic, social, and political advantages. Emma does not acknowledge that men might want to show solidarity with women for the sake of helping women, and not because it might also help men.
Despite Emma’s declaration that “it is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum,” there is no question that the HeForShe campaign reinforces the gender binary. At its core, the discourse around HeForShe excludes those individuals who identify as transgender, genderqueer, or who may not identify with any gender at all. Not to mention women. In this respect, Emma’s gender equality movement is not especially groundbreaking.
Still, I think that Emma’s speech is important. It is important because people listened. It is important because people discussed. Most of all, it is important because it shows us that a significant global community is comfortable, even enthusiastic, about identifying as feminists. This brings us to our first ever “Women’s Issues Issue” here at the Hill News.
Like Emma’s speech, this issue may not be a perfect emblem of feminism. For example, you might already be wondering why we have chosen a to publish a “Women’s Issues Issue” instead of a “Gender Equality Issue”, or a “Gender is a Social Construction Anyway Issue”. The answer is that people are excited about women’s issues. Our intention is not to exclude anyone, but to celebrate and spread the passion we’ve witnessed with regard to gender injustice on this campus.
We recognize that many of the topics discussed in this week’s issue are of a sensitive nature. Although we cannot understate the gravity and the complexities of gender rights, we also cannot belittle anyone who wants to engage in a feminist dialogue. This issue is meant to honor a youth culture, and a SLU culture, that doesn’t cringe at the word “feminist,” but instead keenly follows stories about sexual assault or female peace prize winners in the media. As wholehearted feminists, the entire staff of the Hill News is willing to embrace anyone, even privileged white celebrities, who align themselves with the feminist cause.