Last Saturday, Emma Watson stood in front of the UN and began to speak. What she said started a conversation around the world: Men are a part of gender equality too.
Watson introduced a new campaign called HeForShe, a movement to get men as actively involved in the fight against sexual violence and inequality as women. Defining feminism as “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities…the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes,” Watson created a call that college students, such as ourselves, should find it hard to say no to.
Equality should not be something we argue about. It should be something we unconditionally agree on, that men and women are equal and should be treated as such. Just because you are born a certain way should not mean you must act a certain way.
It’s no secret that sexual violence is a problem on college campuses, and it is a problem at DePauw. It’s no secret that women struggle to earn the same wages as men in the workforce. And it should be no secret that in not one country in the entire world do women have equal rights. Yet, why is nothing happening? Why is nothing changing?
I hear people on this campus mock the programs meant to reduce sexual violence. “We don’t have that problem,” they say. “I’m desensitized to it,” they say. “Open your eyes,” I say. Our very own constitution fails to acknowledge women as equal. In 1972 the Equal Rights Amendment, which attempted to legally acknowledge women’s rights, failed to be ratified by the states. The United States of America, “land of liberty,” refuses to admit women and men are equal.
Watson and UN Women are ready to change that around the world. No longer is it acceptable to ignore the problems or make excuses. Now it is time to step up and admit that gender equality is not such a strange thing to be asking for.In order for this to happen, we need men to be just as involved as women. Equality can only happen once everyone decides they can act however they want and not feel punished for it. Men should not be expected to be manly and strong. Women shouldn’t need to feel powerless and submissive.
So I’m calling on you, men and women of DePauw. Gender inequality is a real thing on this campus, and it will take all of us to change that. Challenge gender stereotypes. Don’t ignore them because “that’s the way it goes.” Be okay with a “strong” woman or a “sensitive” man. But most importantly, think about what this means for you. Watson asks us to think “if not me, who? If not now, when?” I would also add, “if not here, where?” A question not only worth asking, but worth answering.