Is anyone else fed up with having to be nice and sweet to be accepted as a feminist? Anyone else tired of wrapping their feminist message in smiles and politeness? Well I am, and Emma Watson’s speech at the special event for the United Nation’s HeForShe campaign just confirmed my frustration.
WHY OH WHY is it so hard to just state that feminism is needed because of a universal need for basic human rights and decency? Come on, men – do you really need an invitation, reminders that your mom, sister, orgirlfriend are all women, and that there might be a little something good in feminism for you too? Isn’t having solidarity with other human beings already enough reason to join the feminist movement?!
I said “Hallelujah”, when I read this brilliant article by Black Girl Dangerous’ Mia McKenzie: “Why I’m Not Really Here For Emma Watson’s Feminism Speech At the U.N.”. She says Watson’s speech “does nothing to create solidarity…” and that “continuing to re-enforce the idea that men should respect women and fight for women’s equality because mother/sister/daughter/whatever perpetuates the idea that women don’t already deserve those things based solely on our status as human beings.”
Exactly! It should be enough to be a human being, but as always, it seems like women need to be something more to be worthy of decent treatment.
I had the great privilege to hear Nobel Peace prize recipient Leymah Gbowee speak at the Global Fund for Women’s 25th Anniversary Gala last year. What stuck with me were her unforgiving passion, her loud voice, and strong character. In an interview she once said: “It’s time for women to stop being politely angry.” Yes!
Let’s be honest – even if we try to talk about why feminism is desperately needed in a nice, passive way, like the non-profit Hollaback! just did with their street harassment video, people will react aggressively. The violent response to Feminist Frequency’s well-researched analysis of video games is another example. It’s not our behavior that makes men distance themselves from feminism, the distance lays within the patriarchal power structure itself: Men hold most of the power, and women are excluded from it. It’s hard to give up power, and it’s hard to acknowledge your own privilege. But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it can’t, and shouldn’t, be done.
Emma Watson is doing amazing work, and I am hopeful that more men will join the feminist movement through the HeForShe campaign. I also recognize that there are settings where being diplomatic and politely angry have an impact. But there is a certain point where we can’t take responsibility for other people’s ignorance any longer. Sure, we can be aware of the ignorance and know that it does affect the feminist movement. We just don’t need to be so damn nice about it.
Siri Nybakk is a Norwegian journalist currently working with large amounts of media, doing quality control of movies and TV for a tech company. As a feminist, she is especially passionate about how female sexuality is represented and the awesomeness of Swedish feminist cartoons.