Image from Mirror.

“If not me, who? If not now, when?”

This is the question that Emma Watson posed in her United Nations speech concerning gender inequality. Some of you are likely thinking: “Gender inequality? Pssh, this is the 21st century!” “Women received the right to vote, what, 95 years ago?” “I don’t see the problem.”

Gender inequality is prevalent to a degree in every single nation: Women in the US earn just 77% of what men earn for the same work, as of the most recent national US census. It is accepted to fire or demote a woman who is pregnant or on maternity leave. In Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to drive cars, and they can’t leave their homes without a man’s permission. One in three women is likely to be sexually assaulted in her lifetime, and more than 95% of CEOS on the Fortune 500 list are men. In India and China, male children are worth more than females; feticide and infanticide of females are common practices.

And as a society, we stifle sensitivity in males. The suicide rate in men is three to four times higher than in women, and 92% of the time, the female receives child custody in divorce or illegitimacy cases. More than double the federal funds are given to breast cancer than to prostate cancer, and the ACA gives breast cancer twice as many grants as prostate cancer, while the fatalities from both are almost identical. 2.78 million men in the U.S. have been sexually assaulted or raped, but how many of us know this?  We live in a society where males are not allowed to show weakness and women are not allowed to be strong. And up until recently, little progress had been made to address these global issues on a global scale.

Emma Watson, better known as Hermione Granger, has shed some much needed light on a topic so many dismiss as irrelevant or merely a “women’s issue”. She boldly stated in her United Nations speech “…the more I spoke about feminism, the more I realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop.” Feminism is not synonymous with hating/shaming men; it means gender equality (though the name is deceiving and can be perceived as alienating).

Feminism by definition is “the theory of political, economic and social equality of the sexes,” but the word has become overused, misinterpreted, and insignificant due to radical feminists and the fact that women aren’t the only ones who have it hard (though male vs. female suffering should not be a competition!). In the early 1900s feminism was significant, but times have changed and a term that sounds exclusive but claims to be inclusive is…exclusive.

Gender equality is what feminism has evolved into. Watson states, “If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled.” There are issues on both sides of the spectrum, and if both sides dismiss the other, progress is impossible.  As a society, we need to eliminate preconceived ideas about what a man should do and how he should act, and what a woman should do and how she should act.

If we want to prevent gender discrimination in the work force, discard the misconception that marital rape is not rape, and if we want to lower the statistics on male suicide and let our fathers know that they are just as important as our mothers, then gender equality is the answer and the only acceptable answer.

Dear High School students: here’s how we can eradicate gender stereotypes.

1. Eliminate the words “slut” and “hoe” from your vocabulary. (Unless you are talking about a gardening tool.)
2. A girl who wears makeup is not necessarily insecure, despite what events such as No Makeup Monday may tell you.
3. You may have been brainwashed into thinking that masculinity is determined by how many varsity sports a male plays. This is false, problematic, and marginalizes the rest of the male high schooler population.
4. A female who takes charge is not bossy, or out of line.
5. Wearing “Nike shorts and t-shirts” is appropriate and acceptable for both genders. If guys can do it, then girls can too without being perceived as sloppy.
6. Guys worry about prom, too. It’s hard to do the asking.

Simply changing our behaviors within the confines of our high schools constitutes progress in my opinion. If we, as high schoolers, do not take responsibility for the implications of our actions and speech then we are promoting an environment in which males and females are not afforded the same rights and respect. We need to start respecting one another regardless of gender because if not [us], who? If not now, when?

(Check out Kathleen‘s article entitled “Op-Ed: Misogyny Murders” for further reading!)

Do you consider yourself a feminist?  An egalitarian?  Nothing at all? Why?  Have something to say about the speech or this article?  Drop a comment below!

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