Opinion

Men, women must work together to solve gender issue

Though better-known as the face of Hermione Granger, U.N. Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson has ventured beyond her character’s activist nature (remember the house-elves?) to play her real-life role as an advocate for women’s rights.

Last week, Watson spoke about the role of men in feminism at the United Nations to launch her new campaign, HeForShe. A “solidarity movement for gender equality,” HeForShe was described by Watson as a “formal invitation” for men to join the feminist movement.

Though largely admired by the general public, Watson’s speech has also incited reproach. Critics claim her speech implicitly gives men an easy break. By suggesting that many men are unknowingly already feminists based on common sense, Watson’s speech may encourage men to claim the feminist label without changing their actual behavior towards women.

So what are some concrete ways that men can show their support for gender equality in their daily lives?

The problem is evident enough on college campuses like ours. Fraternity parties and club venues shamelessly objectify females with their sexualized themes and gender-biased door fees, a practice that often treats women like currency. Social media outlets such as Yik Yak are riddled with lewd jokes and comments about body types, many of which dehumanize women.

This crudeness can be easily blamed on sexist attitudes. However, perhaps it is also a result of our society’s deteriorating value of respect in general, a transformation clearly visible through various 21st century social phenomena such as cyberbullying, online flaming and leaking of private digital property.

Yet disrespect between the sexes manifests in subtler and “politer” ways as well. Small habits that might seem benign, such as diminutive names or patronizing praise, only further reinforce the idea that women are more childlike and naturally less capable than men.

So men, think twice about your intentions before calling someone “princess” or “lady.” Before you tell a woman “good job,” reflect on whether you are genuinely admiring her work as a peer or whether your encouragement is merely a form of socially instilled patronization.

Beyond words, body language can also be a major reinforcement of male authority. Men often seem to hover over women in a pseudo-possessive nature in casual social settings, as if women were young children in need of guidance. A female faculty member even spoke of mortifying experiences during which an older colleague would pat her on the head during meetings, a gesture clearly meant to undermine her legitimacy as a professional.

But the responsibility doesn’t only fall upon men; women, too, can improve this culture of respect. As Logan Lerman told Watson’s character in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” “we accept the love we think we deserve.”

Women, if you know you have earned more respect than you’re given, speak up. Be polite but clear if you feel uncomfortable or insulted. In many cases, the offenders may be sincerely oblivious to their crimes, but setting clear boundaries will help them recognize their gaffes and avoid repeating them around other females.

There is little doubt that feminism is still an intimidating term to many; just yesterday I was discussing this very column with a peer and his response was shockingly negative: “Oh, man, the feminist speech. It’s too much for me.” When I questioned him further, his only explanation was that the whole movement in general was “too much sometimes.”

While I was sufficiently surprised, it seems that my friend’s knee-jerk reaction is not at all uncommon. During a session I was sitting in on at the Canes LEAD conference last week, both male and female students testified about their peers’ trepidation with the “F-word.”

Evidently, there are still many misconceptions floating around about the definition of feminism, and Watson is right to try to reshape the public perception of the movement to make it more inclusive.

However, just getting men to board the boat isn’t enough; if we are to row anywhere effectively, we must have a functional team that cooperates and respects all members as equals.

Jackie Yang is a freshman majoring in neuroscience.

 

Featured photo courtesy of UN Women.

October 1, 2014

Reporters

Jackie Yang

Jackie Yang can be reached via email at jyang@themiamihurricane.com.


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

Throughout the four years he spent as a tackle for the Miami Hurricanes, Tyree St. Louis never consi ...

Finally, a marquee home game for the University of Miami men’s basketball team, a game big enough th ...

University of Miami basketball coach Jim Larranaga, awaiting word from the NCAA on the appeal to rei ...

The Hurricanes officially welcomed ballyhooed new quarterback Tate Martell on campus Friday, and he’ ...

Before Jess Simpson’s final playoff run as the coach of Buford fell short in a Georgia state champio ...

The University of Miami brings together leaders in academia, professional practice, and industry to ...

On Dec. 14, 2018 universal health care programs in both the United States and Mexico were dealt sign ...

For the first time in more than 15 years, two of UMTV’s weekly shows were nominated for the Televisi ...

Miami Transplant Institute performed 681 transplants during 2018, setting a new national record in k ...

Jazz aficionados launch new video series by sharing invaluable performance techniques. ...

"We're excited to welcome these coaches to the Miami family," Diaz said. ...

The No. 17 Miami women's tennis team recorded its second win of the day Saturday evening at the ...

Chris Lykes scored 20 points, but the Canes come up just short against No. 13 UNC. ...

In the first of its two matches Saturday at the FGCU Tennis Complex, the No. 17 Miami women's t ...

Canes have won six of last 10 meetings with UNC. ...

TMH Twitter
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.