Did Emma Watson’s UN speech advance feminism? And what is HeForShe?

I am a member of a FB group where feminist topics are often discussed, so naturally the recent speech by the new UNWOMEN Goodwill Ambassdor Emma Watson was shared there, and gained attention. I would not have known about the speech otherwise. I would not have known, even, that Emma Watson already for 6 months is a UN Goodwill Ambassador in women issues – you cannot learn even on the relevant UN web page (the following is a Print Screen of the page on 24 September 2014, or 4 days after the speech)

UNWOMEN ambassadors list 20140924

Initially, I was astounded. I have noticed her name while browsing for other news, so I know she is an actress and sufficiently high-profile. But I have never heard or noticed her speaking on women’s issues before. Then why was she chosen to deliver a speech in the UN? Was it some kind of a PR campaign, and she was chosen to play the leading role? I hate to be degenerated into a campaign object, and to experience an event, that I know has been planned, designed and staged to deliver a precise result. Where not one word really belongs to who is speaking, though occasionally still of course they may come from the heart.

What I would have expected instead, is a veteran woman, who with her total behaviour and life choices – with real actions – has stood for the feminist cause, who by just being herself has actually changed the world – for it to be a better place for a woman.

There are lots and lots of such women in the world, I am positive, though not necessarily with a high media profile.

When I voiced my thoughts, I was immediately accused of many things and more. That I belittle someone who is a woman and is young; that I do not believe an actress can have serious cause; or that she can be intelligent; or intelligent enough to write a speech (for example). Because I also did not love her speech, but that comes further below.

But nothing of the kind! I am an egalitarian by nature, really my position on equality goes much beyond the women compared to men issue. I fully appreciate that a Hollywood actress can be smart, she can have high moral values and a serious, world-advancing cause in her life, that she is a perfectly equally worthy human being to the rest of us. Anyone can be that, never mind the profession, gender, or age.

But still, if we line up all those in our world who are right now advancing the female cause, then is it really Emma Watson who would emerge at the top? As the most influential, the most celebrated, the hardet working in that field?

I prefer that as societies, instead of the (sometimes not but often also) hollow celebrities, we would set up idols who inspire with personal standards, actions and behaviour; not so much with their look or how many media pages they have graced. Emma Watson, before she became a celebrity actress, was just an ordinary person, I believe. So why not find other ordinary persons, but with admirable behaviour and choices, and make them into celebrities? Do not they deserve it? Why should one become (almost always) an actress, or supermodel or a pop singer, or other entertainer, for us to hear her out?

People told me: We know her from Harry Potter and we admire her! And it took me some time, but finally arrived – of course! She was not even talking to me. She was talking to my daughters’ generation! As a woman of over 40, in a world of men over 40, must be we are already a lost generation. You cannot teach new tricks to an old dog!

It makes sense to channel the efforts towards the younger ones instead, sure it does.

But I am still totally confused. If she was to talk to the young ones, then why was she talking at the UN? Is this a high-profile venue that young people constantly follow? People told me: she gained attention! A million and more supposedly have watched her speech over Youtube.

In a 7 billion world.

I felt that on that speech podium she was kind of totally misplaced. There are certainly multitalents, who produce their own texts and then also perform them, with great oratorial capacity. But in general, it is best to stay true to your talent, your set of tools. If you are an actor, and there is even high demand for you, then you can choose, what roles you play or do not play, what roles you ASK to play or what scripts you support. And that will be your way of advancing your cause in the world.

As a celebrity, and a UN Ambassador, you can decorate events and activities, that need special attention; utilising your capital as a celebrity.

But speech is not your best medium, or so I feel. You do not feel true in that role.

The speech also raised so many questions. First of all: many people know that Emma Watson held a speech at the UN. Then, what did she speak about? Suppose quite a lot know she spoke about… feminism? (What is THAT?) Equal rights? Men’s rights? HeForShe? (What is THAT?)

I saw her speech and I read it, and I do not remember.. I have to go back every little while and check, and no I do not suffer from Alzheimer, yet.

Someone told me, the speech was to introduce a new campaign – the HeForShe campaing? And she provided a link to that campaign (because there was nothing in the speech that would have meaningfully described it).

So, I am also asking here – did anyone have responsibility for the event and what was the message from it supposed to be? The only knowledge that seems to be still floating, is that “Emma Watson held a speech at the UN”. For me, from such a high-profile event and person, it is a bit too little! Though good for Emma, and good for the UN.

To avoid more accusations of all sorts, I looked at the speech carefully, to determine what exactly I did not like in there.

First of all – its vagueness:
“We should stop defining each other by what we are not, and start defining ourselves by who we are.”

What does it mean, seriously!?

Or:
“Today we are launching a campaign HeForShe. I am reaching out to you because we need your help. We must try to mobilize as many men and boys as possible to be advocates for change.”

We must mobilise men and boys for be advocates of change? So what we do then? Grab men and boys on the street by collar and tell them “I need you be advocate of change!” Will they understand what I want?

She goes on to describe, though:

“We can all be freer and this is what HeForShe is about. It’s about freedom.”

?? Libresse is also about freedom and to liberate women. But so are anti-apartheid organizations – about freedom! Also anarchists cherish freedom. HeForShe, for freedom….. Beats me! She does however mention it once more:

“We must strive for a united world but the good news is we have a platform. It is called HeForShe.”

Anyway, by now I am completely lost already. A platform of freedom? Build by men for women?

For God’s sake, can’t you just put it in plain words what you have to say? Another person had to explain to me, that HeForShe was launched to recruit men to speak about gender quality issues to, and draw the attention of, those men who refuse to listen to a woman. And that makes sense, but was not mentioned anywhere in the speech that now popularly travels around the world via Youtube and a multitude of social networks! That opportunity was lost!

The speech also shined with really boring platitudes:

“In my nervousness for this speech and my moment of doubt, I told myself firmly: if not me, who? If not now, when? … ” Yawn.

And the random examples made my eyebrows rise:

“At 15, my girlfriends started dropping out of sports teams because they didn’t want to appear masculine.”

I suppose she means “appear muscular”? But why would anyone want to appear muscular? Perhaps it was not then the aim of her girlfriends, who may have been interested in sports as healthy pastime simply, but competitive (hard) sports is not a healthy pastime, or at least doubtful as such. Regenerational (soft) sports is.

Men similarly may drop out of sports because they may think visual muscles are simply vulgar. Or that it is not quite healthy? Or they do not want to be competitive? *** They may or they may not?

Or:
“When I was 8, I was called bossy because I wanted to direct a play we would put on for our parents.”

Well, maybe it was not that you wanted to direct a play, but because you acted bossy while wanting to direct it? I have directed several plays and events in my early teens and I do not remember anyone ever saying I am bossy. I was quite shy at that time, even, but kind of creative, so I suggested and we did it, and that was it. I have also for years and years acted as a class president, the leader of the pioneer group I was in, and even been declared the winner of a competition for young pioneer commanders in a marching competition (making whole groups march to the tune – both girls and boys). You have to act really bossy there, in fact. Still no yone was thinking I was bossy… I just performed my task that I was good at, helping everyone march in perfect tact to others, and we won! Everyone was happy! (Yes, I am from that generation. A Soviet woman was equal to a Soviet man, and I believed it and grew up believing it. And it worked! I still believe I am equal to men… B-) )

Or what was that about Hillary Cinton and Beijing? Of all feminist events in the world history – was that one the most noteworthy, universally? What was it about, anyway?

Or, if rural African girls do not go to high school then do rural African boys go? I do not know and also I did not learn from that speech. Why speak about rural Africa anyway – can you expect women’s rights be recognised before human rights have been recognised in a place? Etc.

I am also deeply aggravated, that while speaking to advance the women’s cause, Emma chose to fortify it with a quote from a man. “Statesman Edmund Burke said all that is need for the forces of evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing.” Again, in the total history of great female persons, in the situation where we admit that woman are not as well represented publicly as they deserve to be, and men are dominating – was it so impossibly difficult to find a great quote from a great woman, and let it shine??

Kind of like the words carried the interest of women, but the acts did not. But acts are, what matter.

I can dig more, but enough is enough. Did she write it herself? By now I sincerely hope she did not. Sounds like something written, carelessly, by a typically self-assured male copywriter, who wrote two like this the day before, and will write another one the day after, without much thought, because from experience he knows – mostly no one will give a fig! Men carry that assurance, and women often do not, but that may make all the dfference between who gets promoted and who not.

Just speculating here, of course.

Because I like to think of myself, that I am also advancing the women’s cause. But I usually think I do it simply by being that equal-to-men woman that any woman should be. By realising, achieving for me the rights and what else I am supposed to have; without waiting for HeforShe, or any other man to help me, but by standing up and asking, whenever appropriate and justified. Because as a human being who happened to be born as a woman, I feel I naturally deserve all that. I have no slightest doubts or tremors about it! And I do not really care so much about what men think or how they feel about it. Aren’t they grown up and perfectly capable of taking care of their problems on their own? Do we women need to mommy them, or are they perhaps capable of being their own daddies and sorting things out?

So what men think of feminism, does not bother me. You caused it, so eat it up now. Sorry! And no, I do not hate you. But (still and ongoingly) I do hate your behaviour often enough to be reminded of this cause here.

I am concerned instead, about what women think of feminism, and whether they sympathise or not. Because if they do not, then how can you actually achieve anything that is supposed to involve them? They will simply ignore you…

So, my philosophy of feminism and its methods would call for actions rather than words – to be the woman that we all need to be. To make the decisions and choices that advance us all. To be one, who commands authority and admiration with her very being. No one likes people who fight, shout and pressurize. Aggression makes us feel insecure and it is also so unelegant. While people often easily do what those people say, whom they admire.

Well, in that sense again Emma was not on such wrong path! As Hermione, she must have hordes of admirers. But what did she say? Did anything meaningful sink in? Considering how important is the cause – didn’t she receive any expert aid with her speech? It sounds hollow, though that of course is the wrong of the scriptwriter, not of the one who performed it.

***

The full text of Emma’s speech is available somewhere under the following link, for example:

http://www.rappler.com/world/regions/us-canada/69726-emma-watson-gender-equalityhttp://www.rappler.com/world/regions/us-canada/69726-emma-watson-gender-equality

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