Saturday, January 7, 2017
I care about the fact that I am a girl, something that is probably evident in my recent blog posts. I have always dealt with my sex as a fact and not a situation. I am equally privy to both the injustices as well as the special favours bestowed upon my gender. I don't make a guy carry my bag or insist upon a "ladies first" kind of treatment. When in need of assistance, I ask for help as a human being, not a female. I recognize when good things are said about me just because someone likes the way I look or dress, and those are the compliments I don't take seriously. However, I will never insist that physical appearance can't be a somewhat unfair advantage in a society that unfairly and harshly judges women for the way they look. I am grateful that, for the most part, once people get to know me, I am treated as an individual, without the label of 'girl' being the dominant determinant of how I am treated among friends.
Needless to say, I listen to what people say about women and feminism, even when I don't agree with what is being said. These days it seems like actress Emma Watson is the most popular feminist out there. Guess what? I am not too happy about that, something that I have no intention of hiding. My openness about my dissatisfaction with one of the so-called most beautiful women in the world has invited many accusations - that I just don't get it, that I am a femi Nazi, and worst of all, that I am jealous (because all girls are programmed to be jealous of other girls, right? And that's why all our magazines have pictures of, well, girls).
Today, I am here to explain my thoughts about this, and trust me, this is not some sentiment-based argument. I have tried to be logical here because, well, I believe that equality is fundamentally tied to logic.
Here's a video which quite accurately talks about why Emma Watson is so popular:
I agree with most of the things that are said in the video. Here's the honest truth about Emma Watson, that she's not really praised for her acting skills (let's just admit that she is a mediocre actress), and most of the attention surrounding her has to do with her looks and charm and 'dignity'. But there are some issues at play here. For example, I can't see the same video ever being made about a man. Well, I don't know about you, but when we're praising men, we don't list the same character traits, do we? We talk about the great work they have done, how exceptionally talented they are in their chosen field, how their techniques make them stand apart from their contemporaries, the power they wield in society, the money they make, how they lead! But when we're talking about girls, we are much more likely to use words like 'charming,' 'dignified,' 'sweet,' 'soft-spoken,' and 'elegant.' Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with these personality traits and one must strive for them to the best of their abilities, but it appears to me that even today, women are meant to be put on a pedestal for their looks and 'pleasantness,' while the same isn't true for men. Not to mention the fact that some of these traits can be argued to be God-given and not exactly based on achievements.
I know I'm going on about the looks part a lot, so let me explain. Emma Watson is a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador, whatever that entails. And I looked through the list of goodwill ambassadors and I saw that it was full of good-looking women. I mean, I could start with how none of the more popular ambassadors are men, which could be an issue, or how all of them are a able-bodied, relatively wealthy, and a certain kind of beautiful. And it feels to me that the job is less about being heard and more about being looked at. And I guess at some point, people started attacking feminists, using words like 'dyke' and 'lesbian' and 'butch'. I kid you not, there have been accusations that feminists are the way they are because they're not attractive enough and can't get men to like them. So I guess the whole point of the 'He For She' campaign was that, hey, we'll get every guy's dream girl to come and be a feminist so that people don't think that feminists are angry, butchy spinsters anymore.
I can sympathize with this, but most actresses are sexualized, objectified ladies, and this isn't necessarily their fault, so I'm not blaming Watson here. They're paid to look good, to pose for magazine covers, to talk about how to achieve the perfect body for bikini season. Maybe it's the society's perception at fault here. Maybe it's the media. But the point is that feminists were fighting this. They were trying to put all kinds of women in the spotlight, and have all of them be valued equally. And I don't see that at play here.
Then there's the media manipulation. There was news a while back that Emma Watson was hiding feminit books on the subway for people to find, and when you read about something like this on BuzzFeed, it sounds adorable, but how much sense does it really make. I can't imagine any real woman ever doing this, and it seems like more of a good headline than anything else, coupled with a promotional opportunity for Watson herself.
It appears to me that the HeForShe campaign wasn't designed to promote feminism. It was designed to make feminism look prettier, to make feminism more media friendly, more male-friendly.
I love Emma Watson. I think she is absolutely gorgeous, and charming, and she seems like a really nice girl to get to know. And when she says she feels passionate about the feminist movement, I believe her. But her being chosen to be the face of the feminist movement and the campaign that she's now part of go on to show how far we still have to go when it comes to promoting equality between all sexes, and I think it's time we acknowledge that.