As the “International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women” approaches, the UN Women released several video clips campaigning for the protection of women’s rights. The most interesting one that I found was about the “HeForShe” movement.
In the video, men in Modolva challenge the stereotypes of both men and women, discussing gender inequality in the workplace and household. They convey the message from the male side that women suffer a lot from discrimination and gender stereotypes even though women are equally intelligent, brilliant and capable enough to change and shape the world. They call on more men around the world to support gender equality, which should not be viewed as a feminism issue but a human right problem.
And the HeForShe campaign has already started in New Zealand.
As much as how inspiring the campaign and video look, there are some underlying assumptions of HeForShe that may irritate some feminists. For one thing, the name of the campaign still reveals the patriarchy of the movement that men are the protectors and rescuers of women. For another, men, the oppressors, should never play the leading role of liberating the oppressed because as beneficiaries they do not experience the struggles and understand the pains as women do.
The most powerful rebuttal is that this campaign overlooks the diversity of women. The images in the video are all well-dressed, educated middle-class men. They are advocating gender equality in middle class urban cities. There is no hint of rural places and low-income societies where women are poor, abused and uneducated with gender inequality as an obvious and dominate ideology.
But this could still be an educating moment for men and the society. And engaging men into the gender inequality brings objectivity and alternative view into the ongoing feminism movements. In fact, my first reading on gender equality is a book called The Gendered Society written by a male professor, Michael Kimmel. He also encourages more men involved in gender equality to destroy the stereotyped hegemonic masculinities, which impede men from participating more in their family lives.
I would like to view gender equality movement as a process of educating the public and raising public awareness. As male consists of half of the population of the public, feminists should invite more men to make their arguments even stronger. Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement of two-month paternity leave could be a starting point. The question is how we engage male allies without ignoring any underprivileged population, especially when it interrelates with race, class and power.
Deaver, K.M. (2015) Why Hating the #HeForShe Campaign Doesn’t Make Me a Bad Feminist. Role Reboot. Retrieved from http://www.rolereboot.org/culture-and-politics/details/2014-09-hating-heforshe-campaign-doesnt-make-bad-feminist/
Facebook Introduces Four-month Parental Leave for All Employees. (2015). The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/nov/27/facebook-four-month-parental-leave-mark-zuckerberg
HeForShe. (2015). A Solidarity Movement for Gender Equality. HeForShe.org. Retrieved from http://www.heforshe.org/
Men Speak Up for Women’s Rights in UN’s HeForShe Campaign. (2015). 3 News. Retrieved from http://www.3news.co.nz/nznews/men-speak-up-for-womens-rights-in-uns-heforshe-campaign-2015112708#ixzz3sqDhPnXe
Poole, Glen. (2015). Four reasons I won’t be One of the Men Signing Emma Watson’s #HeForShe Pledge. A Voice for Men. Retrieved from http://www.avoiceformen.com/feminism/feminist-lies-feminism/four-reasons-i-wont-be-one-of-the-men-signing-emma-watsons-heforshe-pledge/
UN Women. (2015). Infographic: Violence against women. UN Women. Retrieved from http://www.unwomen.org/en/digital-library/multimedia/2015/11/infographic-violence-against-women
UN Women. (2015). Publications Videos. UN Women. Retrieved from http://www.unwomen.org/en/digital-library/videos