The Widdershins

Activist Monday: Can Beyonce, Emma Watson and the UN Save Feminism?

Posted on: September 29, 2014

Good Monday, Widdershins. I hope you had a lovely weekend; as for me, I experienced some extremely odd weather – in the 90’s on Saturday and Sunday. And, I heard a lot of noise about Emma Watson, a goodwill ambassador for the UN, and her “He for She” campaign.

On the principle that no publicity is bad publicity, I would say that having a camera-friendly, articulate young woman claim the mantle of “feminist” is always a good thing. Just ask Beyonce.

….[In] Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards…the 33-year-old closed out the show with an epic declaration of the F-Word, a giant “FEMINIST” sign blazing from behind her silhouette.

As far as feminist endorsements are concerned, this was the holy grail: A word with a complicated history reclaimed by the most powerful celebrity in the world. And then she projected it — along with its definition, by the Nigerian feminist author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie — into the homes of 12 million unassuming Americans. Beyoncé would become the subject of two-thirds of all tweets about feminism in the 24 hours after her appearance, according to a data analysis by Twitter, making Sunday the sixth-highest day for volume of conversation about feminism since Twitter began tracking this year (the top three were days during #YesAllWomen).

While Beyonce’s endorsement was a great marketing moment, Emma Watson’s speech championing the UN’s new initiative, “He for She” (which I’ll post in full below), in my opinion, was the beginning of a new era for feminism. The UN’s efforts, and Watson’s bravery in being the spokesperson for them, mark the first step towards reclaiming feminism as a mantle that includes and invites men; a call for activism which gets back to the true roots of what our First Wave foremothers were trying to do: gain equal rights for women.


Here is the transcript, for those who would rather read than watch.

Watson’s speech has engendered some negative reactions amongst the Third Wavers, whom I really wish would shut the f*ck up at this point. These are the same “purists” who refused to support Hillary Clinton for President, not on feminist grounds (there were none), but because they didn’t feel all squishy about her the way they did about Dreamboat Barack. (I’m sure we all remember that embarrassing and disgusting display of Interwebz swooning over someone who had done nothing whatsoever for women in his entire self-absorbed life.) I suppose these women are well-intentioned, but in my opinion, they are responsible for the near-death of feminism as a movement, due to their their over-focus on sexuality. I agree that sexuality is one important aspect of the drive for gender equality, but it is far from the entire picture. In my mind, what women and all variations of those who self-identify as female need, is equality of opportunity, whether it be equal access to education; equal access to political power; equal access to work opportunities and equal pay; or equal access to protection from violence.

As Watson said in her speech, “this doesn’t seem complicated.” But it is, Blanche, it is….mainly because Third Wavers tend to want to muck it up with idiotic sh*t like this:

But at the same time, when I hear this speech being discussed as a defining moment in feminism, I worry about the message that the He For She campaign sends to people who still aren’t sure that feminism is looking out for their best interests. More specifically, will He For She leave behind many of the people who most need feminsm’s [sic] help?

To begin with, the name “He For She” is problematic, no matter how you slice it. Some may call these criticisms divisive and nitpicky, but there is nothing feminist about a campaign that reinforces a gender binary that is harmful to people whose gender identities don’t fit into such tidy boxes. When we reinforce the idea that only people who neatly fit the gender binary are worthy of being protected and supported, we erase and exclude the people who are at most risk of patriarchal violence and oppression.

Now, maybe I’m missing something here, but aren’t people who self-identify as female, “the people who are at most risk of patriarchal violence and oppression”? These are females of all colors, economic classes and positions on the gender spectrum. (There are so many statistics that support this that I don’t even know which ones to highlight, but you can start with if you’d like.) In that case, how in the world does “He for She” exclude…well, anyone?

If you’d like to see exclusionism, look no further than the title of the piece I quoted, which begins with “Sorry, Privileged White Women…”  Really, ladies? In this day and age of global awareness and access, are you still holding on to that claim that white women can’t understand what non-white women go through at this point? How 1987 of you! When will you learn that your constant demands for a political correctness that mainstream women can neither understand nor define, is exactly what turns people off to feminists today?

Maybe these women are jealous of the effectiveness of Watson’s speech. It’s not just effective because it’s excellent teevee…it’s also excellent content. The campaign Watson is speaking about is an attempt to do the only thing that has ever worked for women’s equality; get the buy-in of men, instead of alienating and demonizing them (and screaming that white, wealthy, straight women are the enemy). In the First Wave, it was men who signed the legislation empowering women to vote; in the Second Wave, it was a majority of men on the Supreme Court who signed the landmark Roe v. Wade decision and put Title IX into action. The Third Wave may have some responsibility for making same-sex marriage more friendly to the masses, but other than that, I can think of no major achievement they can claim. They certainly whiffed on the ERA, which would have enshrined gender equality in the Constitution for everyone on the spectrum, didn’t they? Perhaps it was because the people pushing the ERA were too white and privileged! Great reasoning, ladies.

Does Watson mention specific actions in her speech? Other than tweeting #HeForShe and going to the website, no. That doesn’t bother me because she is only a goodwill ambassador, and is basically in charge of sales and marketing. The UN (which I do hope is multi-culti enough for the Third Wavers) is in charge of making HeForShe work. I, for one, am very excited to see where they take it.

This is an open thread.


18 Responses to "Activist Monday: Can Beyonce, Emma Watson and the UN Save Feminism?"

Well said MB! I thought Emma did an amazing job, especially when you consider how many young women in the entertainment industry are making a point of publicly saying they “aren’t feminists because they like men”!?!?! Young idiots. I can say that my son watched Emma’s speech, all on his own, and was very impressed by it.

Thanks, SoCal! That is great news about your son. Last time I checked the website, there were about 150,000 people who had agreed to support the initiative. I can’t wait to see what is next…

Thanks for posting this MB — 110% in agreement.

Concerning the less than stellar criticism, I have one question, “When did the default setting on every human being accessing the intertubz become, ‘I gotta be critical no matter how far out on the limb I go even if I fall flat on my avatarian face?'”

I wonder if on the cable opinion shows they have categories of people to call — you have your bucket of crabbies, you have your bucket of “will say anything for the appearance fee”, and you have your bucket of “never saw anything or anyone they liked except cat videos”. No wonder we are so woefully ignorant.

I did not know that I needed to hate men. Why wasn’t I informed? How embarrassing to find out that I have been doing this all wrong for almost 50 years.

Sorry I’m late to the show. Nothing worse than trying to open up the browser and it times out and then when you try to diagnose the problem you get the “cannot connect to DNS server. Contact your internet provider”. Sigh.

Out of curiosity I looked up the authoress (and yes I used that deliberately) of the piece put up on HuffPo. Yes I can see she has quite the background to criticize anyone.

Amy McCarthy is a freelance writer living in Dallas, Texas. She enjoys lipstick, cooking, and fighting with celebrities on Twitter.

Oh, and a little bit more about her:

Freelance writer, editor, and marketing strategist

What, no “long walks on the beach”?

@7: Apparently not. Could that be the problem?

Also, I see she’s written for this online site. Can you say “exclusionary” ??

Mic’s approach to news is as unique as our generation. We’re founded on a simple idea: Young people deserve a news destination that offers quality coverage tailored to them. Our generation will define the future. We are hungry for news that keeps us informed and helps us make sense of the world.

Too many media outlets overlook us or assume we only want to read fluff. But we know that ***young people are inquisitive***

Sigh. My dog was inquisitive too. You should have seen her with a new squeaky toy.

And look!! She has a site that’s all about me, uh her.

Great post and comments.
I wonder if “Mic” is related to Melissa McEwan from Shakesville?
She looks and writes like her.
As for wanting “third wavers” to just shut up already, I could not agree more. Let me put it in terms that they might understand: Feminism, Ur Doing It Rong.

Great post, MB. Emma Watson’s speech was inspiring. Let’s hope it does mark the beginning of a new era in feminism.

Loved the funny and insightful comments in this thread. Fredster’s investigative reporting on Amy McCarthy was stellar. So she enjoys spending her time “fighting with celebrities on Twitter”? What a fab role model for her generation.

Amy, U R Gr8! Bet you knew that already.

You all are hilarious…my favorite thing about Fredster’s research was that Amy “enjoys lipstick.” That is, like, so New Feminist! Because all “old” feminists refuse to wear lipstick and by extension, hate men. Everyone knows that!

Amy enjoys lipstick but inquiring minds want to know: Does she enjoy wearing it, eating it, or coloring with it?

Great post, mb. It’s a refreshing reminder of where we have been and where we need to be. I do think that you’re being a little generous giving third wavers credit for making same sex marriage more acceptable to the masses. How? What specifically did third wave feminists do that the rest of us didn’t do? I give more credit to the Millennials (who were raised by us second wavers) and their confidence in trusting their own instincts and not allowing themselves to be easily distracted. They know what’s right and what’s wrong and they don’t seem to give much of a care who disagrees with them.

I really enjoyed reading this post. Thank you.

Sue@10: In my snooping around research I did see that Melissa put up a piece by Amy, so yeah…similar minds I guess.

The thing that really bothered me about Amy’s piece was her assumption that 2nd wave feminists were all white, female and privileged. That chapped my hide.

And if you have a chance, *do* read the comments on the piece there at HuffPo

Fredster@16: Thanks for the heads up.
For the most part, those comments were heartening.

@sue: No problem. Been through this a lot over at Uppity’s place and I consider myself a feminist. I may be white, but I’m not female and definitely have never been privileged. Nor were the women I knew who considered themselves feminists. Grrrrr!!!

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