He for She and She for He

I’m always hesitant to post about highly flammable topics, but Emma Watson has convinced me that the term “feminism” is not so repulsive as it has come to be for me. Here is a look into my change of heart.

First, let me explain why I have shrunk from describing myself as a feminist:

  • “Feminist” websites collecting stories of how stupid men are. (Turnabout is not fair play. It’s rolling around with the pigs in the mud.)
  • “Feminists” pushing for sameness, rather than equality. (If you need to know the difference, go read A Wrinkle In Time.)
  • “Feminists” who insist that women cannot relate to male characters.
  • “Feminists” who spend their lives worrying about the fact that strong female characters differ from the portrayal of their ideal feminist in one or two minor details, rather than doing something about child brides and limited educational opportunities.
  • “Feminists” who count how many female characters there are in every book they’ve ever read. (I accept the need for strong female characters, but that’s not going to stop me from enjoying Harry Potter because there are two male leads and only one female lead.)
  • “Feminists” who insist that the only way for a woman to be equal with a man is by becoming a scientist.

There are others, but those are the major issues that have cropped up over and over and over again. But then Emma Watson came along. She delivered a heartfelt, passionate speech about feminism as mutual respect. She pressed the urgency of understanding one another, of letting each person be true to him or herself. She invited everyone, men and women, to pledge to stop forcing unreal expectations on each other. She addressed real issues, rather than sniping and name-calling and gnat-straining.

So this is why I am now tentatively okay with calling myself a feminist:

  • I believe that men and women deserve equal respect.

Really. That’s it. There are so many problems in the world caused by the utter lack of respect. Ladies and gents, take a step back. Take a deep breath. Stop looking for ways to be offended or ways to offend. Stop worrying about the twigs at the end of the branches and go back to the root.

But don’t ever, ever stop insisting on the respect that you deserve. Fight for education. Fight for genuine portrayals of women. Fight for the right to walk down the street without being sexualized and humiliated.

And you know what? Fight for men, too. Fight just as hard to remove the idea that men want Carl’s Jr.’s revolting commercials as you fight to remove Carl’s Jr.’s sickening portrayal of women as meat. Believe in men. Believe that there are men who respect women, who want equality as much as women do. Believe that men are better than the media would have us believe, just as you believe that women are.

Because it’s only when we’re united in our respect that we can achieve equality.

You can see Emma Watson’s speech below, or click here. Make a commitment to mutual respect at HeForShe.org.