Alexis Weston | Contributing Writer
“We want to end gender inequality, and to do that we need everyone involved,” said Emma Watson during her 2014 speech to the United Nations. In this speech, she extended a formal invitation to all men to become a part of the feminist movement with her “HeForShe” campaign.
Her campaign asserts that we cannot end gender inequality without the help of men because inequality negatively affects men as well. They should make fighting for gender equality a priority in their everyday lives. This speech launched a social media campaign in which men posted photos of themselves holding up signs saying, “#HeForShe,” which was sometimes accompanied by a personal anecdote involving their experiences with feminism and observations of sexism.
Watson was hailed as a game changer for the modern day feminist movement for sparking male interest in something that men, historically, have not been particularly fond of. Considering that feminism still is not very popular in the United States, with Huffington Post reporting that 20 percent of Americans identify as feminists, 23 percent of all American women and 16 percent of all American men identifying as such, it seems as though the movement could use as many new minds as possible.
Dominique Conway, a sophomore, political science major from Murietta, California, proudly declared herself a feminist. When asked whether she thought men could be feminists she said, “Absolutely. I feel like it’s a very universal belief.” She continued on to say, “It just means you support equality in places where equality is not met or seen.”
Julian Boyd, a sophomore, computer science major Spotsylvania, Virginia and self-proclaimed male feminist, stated that he believes the place of men within the movement is, “just to be helpful and not hinder any progress. You have to spread what you know to other guys.” Freshman, biology major from Owings, Maryland, Taylor Burnett had a similar answer, stating that men should, “support the feminist movement for their wives, their daughters, their nieces and the people who come after them.”
In Brian Klocke’s article, “Roles of Men with Feminism and Feminist Theory,” he states that he thinks, “men can be pro-feminist and anti-sexist, I do not believe that we can be feminists in the strictest form of the word.” Klocke explains that men can not be feminists in the sense that women can because, “men, in this patriarchal system, cannot remove themselves from their power and privilege in relation to women.”
This is similar to the view that Malcolm X had on white people that attempted to be involved in the Civil Rights Movement (post-revelation). While he did not mind their support, he believed that they could not truly be involved because it was necessary for Black people to be the face, voice and hands of their movement.
It would be wrong to say that men can not be involved in and support feminism, in fact, men should be encouraged to do so. However, it’s very important to recognize that feminism is meant to be a space that uplifts women and makes their own voices heard. If feminists start modeling their beliefs after the ideas behind the “HeForShe” campaign, it would become a movement centered around men saving women, thus placing them in a paternalistic role rather than a supporting one. Jenika McCrayer and Jamie Utt said it best in their collaborative article, “Can Men be Feminists? And 9 Other FAQs We Often Get From Men.” They tell men not to, “worry too much about the label and just do the work.”