Emma Watson, and; My opinion on gender

I finally just had the opportunity to watch all of the speech by Emma Watson given to the UN. I won’t link it here as it’s easy to find on YouTube and elsewhere.

She was articulate, passionate, and correct in my opinion. Without the help of men, without the process of gender changes and attitudes associated with maleness, women worldwide don’t stand a chance when it comes to achieving the ability to be recognized not only as equals, but as individual human beings and not just an appendage to someone owning a penis.

Attitudes and stereotypes associated with a socially constructed ideal that defines the meaning of masculine or feminine in binary terms are not only wrong, they are ludicrous. Gender is a term that relates to traits and characteristics assigned by cultural and social organizations which then create correct or expected behaviors and actions for the individual labels. Gender does not mean male or female. Gender is not biology. Gender is telling me, you, everyone who defines themselves as male or female, how they are supposed to be, and behave, according to the rules of society.

In fact, in our world today, gender is arbitrary. Gender is in flux. Gender definitions are being re-defined. Yet we still have the ideal shoved into our faces that to be a true woman, or a true man, we must behave in very specific ways.

Watson noted that gender stereotypes and expectations must be addressed from the male perspective. Men must be given permission by both cultural systems and societal systems to formulate new ways of being male. Women must also be given societal and cultural permission to behave in non-stereotypical ways. The big thing here, and I don’t think that Watson is implying that it is all up to men only to change, is that without change in masculine definition and action, women don’t stand a chance to be anything other than second, to be always just a few steps behind, to be led rather than to lead.

Watson’s speech brought to mind some of the research findings I collected in my Capstone on rape. Time after time, in article after article on male rape attitudes, studies would show clear data that many men rape because they were in a situation whereby it was expected of them. Interviews recalled stories of young adults, normal non-misogynistic guys, who in there everyday life would most likely never rape a woman. Yet in a setting (often college campus parties) where a gang rape begins, taunting to be “one of the guys” and fear of being labeled as anything less than masculine or god forbid, as gay, led these men to rape. The awesome power of masculine norms won out over common sense, human decency and personal values.

This is a social and cultural problem, not a male problem. Watson was speaking on a global level, however to change globally, we must change locally as a start.

Is it possible?

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12 thoughts on “Emma Watson, and; My opinion on gender”

  1. I wrote about it today here. http://wp.me/p43Hpx-Qj

    I agree with you. In fact, there are two things about this about this speech that I find striking, and different than anything I’ve heard said about feminism on a really big stage in a long time:

    1. She acknowledges the problem with the label itself and defines it in positive, inclusive terms, and

    2. As you note here, she appeals directly to men and she also talks about the price men pay for these rigidly-policed gender roles.

    The question for me is whether or not this is going to turn into an attempt at real mobilization or not. We’ll just have to wait and see, but I’m more optimistic after watching this speech than I have been in a long time.

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    1. Thanks for reading my post–I hope I haven’t usurped the whole Feminist Friday thing–I didn’t know that there was another one out there. I’m glad that you see positives coming from this latest campaign, although as I mentioned to another blogger I am pessimistic at best, at least with seeing great change in American society as I truly feel that we don’t recognize that we still have a huge problem. I think many (the ones that need to listen, understand and act) in the USA will see the association with global ties and figure “not for me, not here, this is someone else’s problem.”
      I hope your optimistic reality wins out over my sad belief in the status quo.

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      1. You’re not usurping at all — the more the merrier, I say. The Feminist Friday thing is a fairly well-established meme, that’s why I use it when I write about Feminism.

        It’s hard to be optimistic these days, and I think you’re right about American culture, but the language of that speech is different from anything I’ve heard from a major organization. So I’m giving it the optimism.

        One more link. This is an archive that goes back to March, and the first post gives you the backstory, which goes back to December of last year. About half of the posts on the page are mine, but several of them go to blogs I have nothing to do with other than reading them and inviting the bloggers to write Feminist Friday posts for discussion. It’s like 20 posts on 7 different blogs at this point. The idea is to discuss gender inequality week in, week out from as many perspectives as possible. That’s the whole agenda, and it’s working so far. Sometimes we end up with 100 comments and the thread is still active on Monday, sometimes (like this week) we only get a few comments. But we don’t give up. We keep at it. You’re welcome to join in 🙂

        http://wp.me/P4UR49-tl

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  2. I’ve seen the buzz about the Emma Watson speech, but I haven’t had the chance to watch it yet. You have certainly motivated me to have a look. I quite admire Ms. Watson, and I am looking forward to hear what she has to say. Gender and gender norms are something I struggle with for my two daughters. They certainly don’t fit any stereotype. Of course, none of us do in the real world. I try to help them focus on themselves as individuals in the world as opposed to girls in the world, and I hope the mothers of the boys they encounter are doing the same. Individuals, breaking out of the groupthink mentality is what can stop things like Stubenville from happening. I wonder if just one of those men, early on, had spoken up and said, “Guys, no. That is rape,” would things have stopped where they started?

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  3. Masculinity, as currently formulated, is profoundly (and terrifyingly) toxic. To people of all genders.

    Have you written more, either here or elsewhere, about your Capstone research? I’d be interested in the work you did.

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    1. Alice, I still have the paper, all 45 pages of it–I am an overachiever even for a BA 🙂 I bring in bits and pieces on occasion as my rants on patriarchy and related matters can obviously go long and I swore I would never force my blogging friends to read academic research.

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    1. A sincere thanks for commenting. Most of my feminist related posts don’t draw comment and I don’t intend to speculate as to why. I have found that some feminists, labeled as “radical” have been stepping back in their man-blaming, but I think Watson approached her position well. I also think that paying attention and actually being willing to do something are profoundly opposite. I am a pessimist at heart and see societal change as something we wish for, but are not capable of–too much is too entrenched…
      I stopped by your blog as yours is a new name in my notifications list. I like the personal honesty in your blog. I also understand the anonymity issue as well, but I am getting more empowered to say what I think, and not give a damn who knows my name, or what notions they have about me. Hope that you stop by again as I welcome any and all feedback.

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