By Caitlin Piper
At its core, the He for She campaign is a noble endeavor. The result of a collaboration among the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, British actress Emma Watson and American journalist Wolf Blitzer, the campaign aims to promote gender equality and denounce enforced gender roles for both men and women by encouraging men to speak out against misogyny.
I think the campaign is inadvertently encouraging the very behavior it seeks to put a stop to.
I’m not going to deny that women have been fighting an uphill battle for equality for pretty much all of human history. As a woman, I have been subjected to sexism countless times in my life, and though I know that things have been steadily improving for women over time, I believe that misogyny is still a widespread problem.
However, I also believe that men have their own double standards to endure. Male victims of sexual and domestic abuse are often ignored or mocked for their so-called “weakness,” especially if their attackers are female, and fathers often have to fight harder for custody of their children in divorces because they are usually viewed as less competent parents solely because of their gender.
Throughout history, particularly in times of war, men were also considered expendable in comparison to women. And just as women are pressured to be feminine and submissive, men are pressured to be masculine and outspoken.
The He for She campaign actively ignores the second group while claiming that it is fighting for equality between the genders.
In my opinion, true equality isn’t just recognizing that one side has it worse than the other and trying to improve societal standards for that group, although that is an integral step. Equality is realizing that, even if one side has it better, both sides still have their own inequalities and injustices to face, and both must work together to make things better for everyone involved.
I have no problems with the concept of encouraging men to fight for feminism – after all, misogynists are probably not going to be listening to women in the first place.
I have no qualms with groups who decide to advocate exclusively for men or women.
I do, however, have a problem with a movement that claims to fight for gender equality when all it does is focus on helping one gender, and that is exactly what He for She is doing.
By erasing men’s status as potential victims of sexism and minimizing their role in the world to nothing more than advocates for women’s rights, He for She is perpetuating the very gender binary it is criticizing.
It promotes the extremely harmful idea that gender should serve as a point of division, rather than a barrier that should be knocked down. Its contradictory goals will only make the battle for true equality more arduous.
A campaign for gender equality that actively ignores the hardships of one gender is not a campaign I want to support.