Last week I watched a powerful documentary on BBC4 on the 2012 Delhi gang rape which created headlines around the world. Like many people who watched it I was extremely moved but also shocked in equal measure at some of the archaic attitudes exhibited towards women, particularly in such a large and developing country as India. It dawned on me that understanding feminism has never been more crucial and relevant than it is now. It is clear that we are now seeing gender politics being placed right at the very top of the global agenda once more.
This feminist revival is not in my view premeditated but has occurred due to the escalation of political unrest in the developing world, where once again the victims are inevitably women. It again raises the question of how women are viewed in certain parts of the world and whether there has been enough of an attitudinal shift in which women are seen as truly equal to men.
The spread of the despicable ISIS throughout Iraq and Syria has seen some monstrous acts inflicted upon women. Equally, the capture of the Chibok school girls by Boko Haram last year truly demonstrated how some of the disgusting perceptions of women are still held by particular groups, with quite frankly, warped and distorted views of the world. Whilst these events undoubtedly put the issue of gender politics back on the global agenda it was the speech to the UN by Emma Watson in September last year which raised the profile of this issue.
This aim of this speech was to re-define gender-based assumptions which have influenced some of the deplorable acts perpetrated against women over the years. However, it seems her intention was to also address the taboo surrounding the subject of feminism and its associations.
‘My recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word. Women are choosing not to identify as feminists. Apparently, I’m among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating, and anti-men. Unattractive, even.’
What Emma Watson did with this speech was make feminism an issue to unite the sexes rather than make it one which divides. Consequently, the He for she campaign was launched and has seemingly transformed feminism from an issue based around sisterhood and perceived hostility to men to a feminism based on Watson’s notion of gender unity. The website further goes on to state that the movement is about ‘ gender equality that brings together one-half of humanity in support of the other half of humanity for the benefit of all ‘
I personally think in light of what we have seen over the last 3 years this campaign has never been more needed than it is now. By uniting the sexes on subjects of rape and violence against women and girls the issue becomes one for humanity as a whole, as opposed to an isolated issue for women alone. Often men could say they have felt marginalised from the issue of feminism because of a sense of this being an exclusively female issue. ‘He for she’ has intelligently developed an inclusive and nurturing approach towards men in a way that has not been seen before .If this campaign creates awareness in deprived parts of the world and helps reduce the kind of behavior that has occurred, then this new open feminism we are starting to see will have been a success.