#HeforShe at The Party
This year at the Oscars, despite the lack of racial and gender diversity in the Best Director category, the #AskHerMore hashtag influenced discourse on the red carpet, with journalists being prompted to ask female nominees not just about the designer dresses they wore but more about their artistic craft, and their process as professionals in bringing characters to life on the screen.
Prompted in part by key hashtags and viral GIFs like Cate Blanchett’s response to the tilt-up roving camera at the 2014 SAG awards red carpet ceremony, “Do you do that to the guys?” the Interwebs have been generating dynamic global conversations about the ways gender plays out in pop culture, politics, education and language.
Emma Watson, millennial icon of the Harry Potter series, and now Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women, has taken her #HeforShe campaign to expansive forums with a huge positivity response online that includes vocal support from President Obama, Actor/Activist Matt Damon and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
HeForShe is a solidarity movement for gender equality that brings together one half of humanity in support of the other half of humanity, for the benefit of all.
Watson’s #HeforShe address at United Nations Headquarters in New York on September 20, 2014 has garnered over 1.5 million views on YouTube:
Her January 2015 update on the success of the campaign at Davos revealed some mind-blowing results… “the #HeforShe conference was watched over 11 million times, sparking 1.2 billion social media conversations and the #HeforShe hashtag becoming so popular Twitter painted it on the walls of its headquarters…” indicating the global readiness for an cross-gendered conversation about equality for women and girls, and proving how influential key celebrities can be to the success of campaigns for social change, especially when their involvement resonates with integrity.
Watson has received criticism about her position of privilege as a white wealthy feminist, which has been levied toward feminists since the 70s Second Wave, calling for a much-needed discussions of diversity and the ways gender inequality affects individuals and communities along racial lines. She has used her social media channels to promote dialogue with her characteristic thoughtfulness.
— Emma Watson (@EmWatson) October 9, 2015
While it’s clear that these and other well-known and admired women are using their influence to take a stand on these issues, the difference in the recent discourse is that men are willingly joining in and aligning themselves with the cause of feminism, including comedians as diverse as Aziz Ansari, W. Kamau Bell and Louis CK.
As Rebecca Solnit pointed out recently in Huffington Post,
The arrival of the guys signifies a sea change, part of an extraordinary year for feminism, in which the conversation has been transformed, as have some crucial laws, while new voices and constituencies joined in. There have always been men who agreed on the importance of those women’s issues, and some who spoke up, but never in such numbers or with such effect. And we need them. So consider this a watershed year for feminism.
In an era of #Gamergate death threats for feminists like Anita Saarkesian, who took on the violence towards women embedded in gaming culture through her Feminist Frequency web series; Boko Haram raids on schoolgirls in Nigeria (#BringBackOurGirls), and gang rape in India, the alliance is crucial to a necessary global evolutionary shift in consciousness. Equality is key to the survival of our species.
Some have used unusually creative ways to amplify awareness about previously buried issues like campus rape by putting themselves into the public eye and leaping over enculturated shame to do so. Emma Sulkowicz, a student at Columbia University who asserts she was assaulted on campus by a fellow student, is protesting the outcome of a trial where charges were dropped, by carrying a mattress around campus until her assailant is expelled. Her performance art which went viral, has spurred the debate about administrative cover-ups and inspired solidarity support by men and women around the world, including those who have volunteered for “collective carries” to assist with her burden which she plans to carry until she graduates this year.
As a result of these and other impact stories, the Obama administration recently launched a campaign to get bystanders, particularly men, to reach out to protect potential victims of sexual assault under the rubric “It’s On Us” with videos featuring “Mad Men” star Jon Hamm; Kerry Washington of “Scandal,” “Nashville”’s Connie Britton and NBA player Kevin Love.
to the #RealMenDontBuyGirls campaign spearheaded by Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore:
to big-name supporters of Planned Parenthood and NARAL:
to entire Tumblr blogs devoted to Feminist Men like “Hey Girl“‘s homage to Ryan Gosling:
What have you seen in the shift in the conversation about gender equality? Has it impacted recent party conversation and spurred breakthrough awareness and activism? Do you see hope for cultural evolution through these kinds of celebrity collaborations and story-sharing online?
(#HeforShe photo @simonpegg)