An Analysis of #heforshe

By Maggie McMorrow


I, like many others in the world, recently watched, and was affected by Emma

Watson’s speech to the UN on gender inequality and introducing the new campaign

#heforshe. My initial reaction to the speech was one of positivity and appreciation for

someone articulating some of the issues I have had with the word ‘feminist’ over the

years. But since watching the speech I have read both positive and negative reviews

ranging from calling Watson a game-changer to asking if she is the right woman for the

job. I see both sides of the argument.

I think that in her speech, Emma addressed a key issue in the movement: the

gender divide. I know from personal experience that a lot of times the word feminist,

is synonymous with ‘man hating’ as Emma says. I know that there have been times

where I have been afraid to stick up for my rights out of fear of being perceived as ‘too

aggressive’ or ‘anti-men.’ And throughout my High School career, if I have decided

to swallow my fear of that perception, and to bring up the issue of male privilege, I

have been called crazy or my argument has automatically been dismissed as invalid. I

remember in my sophomore year of High School picking Gloria Steinem to present as

my hero for an English project and being asked by my male classmates why I picked her

because she is “kind of a bitch”. So yes, I was happy to hear her address an issue that I

have personally struggled with. I understand that this may not be the most important

issue in the movement or the biggest struggle facing people who call themselves

feminists, but I think it is an important first step in the fight.


What I do not agree with is writing off Emma’s speech as insignificant, thinking

of it as a loss rather than a win, and attacking her for taking an opportunity that she was

offered. I have read a lot of blogs and reviews that seem angry with Emma personally

and are putting her down for making the speech. I am a firm believer in supporting

others fighting for the same cause as you and building each other up rather then tearing

each other down. After all, if we cannot support the people within our movement, how

are we ever supposed gain support from people outside? Emma brought attention to

an issue within the greater issue and has the whole world talking about it. I don’t really

see how this could ever be considered a negative. I do see that it may not be considered

the most critical issue within the movement, and there may be some flaws within the

campaign, but if it even changed the opinion of a hundred people, isn’t that a win? And

shouldn’t we take very win we can get?


I read a blog, which said “it is apparent that it will take more than just waving

a magic wand (sorry, cheap shot, Emma) to enact real change to deeply engrained

normative gender discourses.” This left me deeply confused. Do people really think

she was trying to solve the issue of gender inequality in its entirety in one speech? Do

people think she expected for one speech to set forth every change that needs to be

made? The speech was meant to introduce a campaign that is supposed to enact some

change, not make the change itself. I personally saw the speech as a step to solve one

part of the puzzle. To include all issues facing gender inequality in one speech would

have been first, the longest speech of all time, and secondly severely unfocused. And

from past experience I have noticed that focusing on one issue in detail usually has a

greater impact then talking in general terms. However, I do agree that more needs to be

done then just #heforshe, but I am going to give it some time and hope that even more

change comes in the future.


Now with all that being said, what I would really like to see is for the UN

to step it up. They are the ones that offered Emma the job of UN Women Goodwill

ambassador and from a PR point of view, I can see exactly why they chose her. She is a

very popular celebrity with a large outreach with no past scandals to be rubbed in her

face. She is well educated and well spoken, as displayed by the memorization of her

entire 15-minute speech. And really she just exudes class, which is the message that the

UN is obviously trying to send. But honestly what I would have liked to see was not one

person to represent all women, but a diverse group of people working collaboratively to

help solve gender inequality. Along with Watson, maybe Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie,

Laverne Cox, Suey Park and Noah Berlatsky. People from all different races, economic

backgrounds, sexual orientations, ages, trans*, and careers. I think to see such a strong

and diverse group of people from all personal and social identities representing the

issue would have had a greater impact, after all the UN is supposed to represent all

people. I am under the personal belief that collaboration and community is more

rewarding than personal success and I hope that in the future, the UN will reflect that.

In order to gain true gender equality, it important to address all that gender means, and

how the word itself is changing. But for now I look at Emma’s speech as a win in the

movement because she got her point across, however important or irrelevant it may be,

and left me hopeful for the future.




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