Emma Watsons’s ‘HeForShe’ Speech on Gender Equality (by Shannon Boyle)
3rd November 2014
Emma Watson’s gender equality speech launches the ‘HeForShe’ campaign which encourages men to join the feminist movement. An inclusive approach is necessary in achieving gender equality. The most inclusive approach may be intersectional feminism which suggests that society is not patriarchal but much more complex. It stems from Schüssler Fiorenza’s concept that society is one of ‘kyriarchy’. Kyriarchy expresses that oppression works in ‘a complex pyrimdal system’ of interlinking social structures, so everyone in society oppresses and is oppressed. Therefore, inequality works on many different levels and affects far more than just women.
Watson touches upon intersectional feminism in recognising that men also face societal oppression. An example of this is her father’s parental role being valued less by society. Another is that men are more likely to suffer from clinical depression and commit suicide, yet do not seek help because of gender stereotypes, such as the need to appear ‘macho’. Therefore, men should want to join the feminist movement to dismantle the patriarchy that enforces unrealistic gender stereotypes. However, Watson fails to note the crucial involvement of kyriarchy. As Sian Ferguson discusses on Everyday Feminism, it is kyriarchy that must be challenged rather than patriarchy, because inequality affects everyone.
Watson’s speech begins, ‘We want to end gender inequality – and to do that we need everyone to be involved’ and so, men must also become advocates for gender equality. However, in only addressing women and men, the ‘HeForShe’ campaigns audience is limited to the cisgender community. Gender identity is much more than biological sex. To actually have everyone involved, the feminist movement must be inclusive of an increasing transgender community. Gender is a wide range, as Killermann lists in A Guide to Gender, to name a few, there is agender, bigender, genderfluid and genderqueer. Only once the feminist movement encompasses the whole range of gender, and makes an appeal to all, will gender equality really be achieved.
This is why intersectional feminism is such a strong approach. It includes everyone and highlights that oppression is a much wider issue than gender alone. But as Killermann expresses, to solve inequality and oppression, we must tackle each individual part and Watson is correct in highlighting gender as a main element of inequality and societal oppression. However, the speech and campaign Watson promotes would be more successful and appealing if an intersectional feminist approach was adopted.
Despite these issues, Watson addresses an important problem in that ‘feminism has become an unpopular word’. The fight for gender equality is often perceived as misogyny verses misandry but, as Killermann highlights, this is a misconception that needs to be eradicated. Some feminists are misandrists, but most are not. Gender equality is not about hating men or bringing men down, but raising other gender’s to have the same rights and opportunities as men, so that everyone can be equal. Feminism is about removing the stigma and stereotypes attached to every gender, from cisgender to transgender. Intersectional feminism works to destruct this kyriarchy within society.
Watson’s speech is a good first step towards gender equality, but there is a long way to go. The ‘HeForShe’ campaign needs to adopt more of an intersectional approach to truly achieve gender equality. It must welcome every gender and aim to dismantle kyriarchy, acknowledging that women’s rights are part of a much bigger picture of inequality.
(Shannon Boyle is a second-year RPE student)
Ferguson, S., ‘Kyriarchy 101: We’re Not Just Fighting the Patriarchy Anymore’ on Everyday Feminism (2014) [accessed 28/10/14]
Killermann, S., The Social Justice Advocate’s Handbook: A Guide to Gender (Austin, TX: Impetus Books, 2013)
Schüssler Fiorenza, E., Wisdom Ways (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2001)
Emma Watson at the HeForShe Campaign 2014 – Official UN Video (Youtube, 2014) [accessed 25/10/14]
‘Emma Watson: Gender inequality is your issue too’ on UN Women (2014) [accessed 25/10/14]
HeForShe (2014) [accessed 25/10/14]