Emma Watson, an actor turned social activist, has begun her fight against gender inequality, soon after she reached a level of fame. While some women leaders of the world dreaded using the word ‘feminist’, Emma Watson giving a speech to the audience of United Nations (UN) did not hesitate to disclose that she is a ‘feminist’ and she does not have the fear to be so. As an ambassador of the UN, Emma Watson glibly introduced the campaign ‘HeForShe’, to the world and argued her position in a logical manner. Emma was appointed as the goodwill ambassador to represent women’s issues and did not have any hesitation to say she was a feminist from a very young age. Openness is one’s expression is considered positive (Bargiela-Chiappini & Nickerson 2014).
From the opening of the speech, it is obvious that she is appealing to an international audience, and the target of the speech is males. She gently requests the male world to be part of the struggle for achieving gender equality in the world and it is possible to achieve that dream only if boys and men also become part of the movement. The speaker has shown the awareness of the negative aura carried by the term ‘feminism’, but dared to express views on it. The intent of the speaker is disclosed in the opening of the speech in simple terms; it is an appeal to join the efforts to achieve gender equality.
Along with some rhetorical descriptions, Emma has brought lots of rational arguments in favour of the need for gender equality. The personal examples projected by the speaker points out that she was a feminist from a very young age and did not realize that she is inclined to feminism until she became an adult. Her childhood experiences have made her question why the world is considering human beings as different on the basis of gender. Her simple acts of taking initiative in her childhood days were classified as ‘bossy’ and her question is quite relevant for serious discussion. The realization that she is a feminist came as soon as she entered adulthood but did not have any difficulty accepting the fact. But, the word feminism has already accumulated deep negative meanings such as anti-men, aggressive, unattractive, etc.
One of the analyses by Emma on women’s rights brings out an astonishing claim that no country in the world can declare they are practising equal gender rights. The speaker agrees that as being a British citizen, she is able to assert her equal gender rights to a large extent, but doubts whether 100 percent is achieved. The speaker asks a veiled question if the rights of women in developed nations such as British cannot be ascertained as enjoying equality, how other underprivileged nations would be treating their women. And rhetorically, she concludes that no country in the world has reached the level of treating both genders equally.
In the middle of her speech, the speaker introduces an interesting term and classification of feminist called ‘inadvertent feminist’. A clear definition of it is not mentioned in the speech, but the listeners need to comprehend it as those who became feminists spontaneously because of their upbringing. The speaker says she is lucky to have parents and mentors who did not discriminate against her because she is female and the outcome is she has become an assertive feminist (Rakow 2015). Emma wishes that such inadvertent feminists must emerge more in future.
The speaker has referred to speeches made twenty years back on feminism by the then women leaders and made a conclusive statement that not much has changed in gender equality (Hashimoto 1985). A famous speech delivered by Hillary Clinton in 1995 had only thirty percent males, which shows that less number of men is part of the struggle for gender equality. The most important message of the speech by Emma Watson emerges here that gender equality is the responsibility of men too. The UN goodwill ambassador makes an appeal and extends an invitation to the men that they should be part of the gender equality movement because they are also exposed to the burdens of gendering.
The forceful argument of the speech is that the discussions on feminism and gender equality are dominated by the assumption that women are fighting to obtain equal rights as that of men and women’s struggle (Corder 1989). The speaker expresses that gender equality is as much relevant to men as they are also victims of gendering practices. Emma Watson has several observations in support of her argument. First, a father’s care is equally important as that of a mother in parenting a child; but society do not emphasize the role of a male parent.
Second, (one of the most important arguments) men find it difficult to express their issues and do not actively seek help from others. The lack of help-seeking is the outcome of the gendering i.e. boys are taught not to seek help as it is against their image of manliness. Because of the inability to seek help, many distressed males commit suicide or pick maladjusted behaviours. The suicide rates are much higher than the deaths caused by road accidents, cancer, or heart ailments. The misguided image of masculinity has made many men psychologically fragile and insecure. The fight for gender equality is a wake-up call to men and is an opportunity to come out of the burden of maladjusted gendering.
According to Emma’s observation, it is unusual to consider men as influenced by gender bias. Actually, men are also victims of gendering and a great deal of good can come to women if men are freed from their gender stereotypes. She proposes and advises to men that they need not be aggressive to show off their masculinity, being sensitive to each other’s concerns is sufficient to achieve gender equality. One of her greatest propositions is that gender is a spectrum, not an opposing position, and men and women can belong to any position in that spectrum with respect to their characteristics (Mayfield, Mayfield & Sharbrough 2015). It can be inferred from this statement that men can be soft and women can be aggressive depending on the context. These positions are no more a privilege based on gender.
The slogan ‘HeforShe’ is mostly targeted at men, calling them to be part of the effort to reach a world of gender equality. She also appeals to the women do to strengthen the struggle by spontaneously emerging as inadvertent feminists. The rhetoric reaches its pinnacle when she makes a motivating appeal to all through the questions, if not now, when? If not you, who? It apparently is sufficient to challenge the socially concerned individuals to be part of the cause.
The speech ends with a gentle appeal, and with a sense of fulfilment, the speaker ends the talk. The message is clear, a fair balance of emotions and reasons are achieved, and the audiences are likely to be influenced to take action towards the social issue (Habermas 2015). The speech is comprehensible to the international audience and the UN, sponsor of the gender equality program, has a powerful narrative now, to remove the notion that gender equality is not anti-men or gender polarization. Even men are probable to be feminists in the light of this speech.
Bargiela-Chiappini, F. and Nickerson, C.R., 2014. Writing business: Genres, media and discourses. Routledge.
Corder, J. 1989. Hunting for ethos where they say it can’t be found. Rhetoric Review, 7, 290-316
Habermas, J., 2015. Communication and the Evolution of Society. John Wiley & Sons.
Hashimoto, I. 1985. Persuasion as an ethical arrangement. Rhetoric Review, 4, 46-53.
Mayfield, J., Mayfield, M. and Sharbrough III, W.C., 2015. Strategic vision and values in top leaders’ communications: Motivating language at a higher level. International Journal of Business Communication, 52(1), pp.97-121.
Rakow, L.F. ed., 2015. Women making meaning: New feminist directions in Communication, (Vol. 10). Routledge.Order Now