Just when you thought 2014 couldn’t get any more colorful, this crazy old year went out over the weekend and upped the ante. The starting venue was the United Nations. The topic, you won’t be surprised to hear, was feminism. The speaker, meanwhile, was Emma Watson, a lovely young woman with a charming British accent who also happened to star as Hermione in the “Harry Potter” movies.
Watson now serves as a “United Nations Women Goodwill Ambassador,” and she spoke to launch the “HeforShe campaign,” which, according to its website, is “a solidarity movement for gender equality that brings together one half of humanity in support of the other half of humanity, for the entirety of humanity.” When you think about it, it sounds nice enough.
The “HeforShe Commitment,” which involves pushing a button online, thereby changing your life trajectory until you maybe forget about said commitment approximately ten minutes later, reads as following: “Gender equality is not only a women’s issue, it is a human rights issue that requires my participation. I commit to take action against all forms of violence and discrimination faced by women and girls.” This pledge, aimed to recruit men to feminism, is placed next to rotating headshots of Barack Obama (the president of the United States), Ban Ki-Moon (the UN secretary general), and Matt Damon (the Most Insufferable Actor in the World, If You Don’t Count Leonardo “I Yacht for a Better Climate” DiCaprio).
Ignoring the Elephants
Again, this is all great, in theory. I mean, who likes violence or discrimination against women? But wait: a bunch of UN members apparently do. Iran seems to like it, as a nation that regularly stones rape victims. Sudan regularly enforces the practices of child marriage and ritual female genital mutilation. China’s official state policies encourage countless sex-selective, anti-female abortions every year. I could go on and on. The plight of many women worldwide is really quite unbelievable and sad, and it makes me feel lucky to be an American.
When I read the glowing reviews of Watson’s address to that sprawling, international body—Vanity Fair called the speech “game-changing,” People magazine called it “powerful,” and CNN called it “moving”—I was sure she let loose, unflinching, setting these countries straight regarding their supporting role in the real-world, epic oppression of women.
If you’ve been following modern feminism for a while, I don’t even need to tell you I’m joshing. While Watson, to her credit, did give a few shout-outs to actual oppression around the globe—child brides and uneducated girls in Africa, specifically, along with an admission that “not all women have received the same rights I have”—her speech was an unfortunate reflection of the “we’re all victims,” zero-sense-of-proportion mishmash that makes up modern Western feminism.
Watson’s First-World Problems
If you don’t believe me, here is what Emma Watson, Hollywood actress, actually complained about before a body of 192 member states, some which have more terrifying dictatorships than others: 1. She was called “bossy” as a child; 2. She was sexualized by the media as a young movie star; 3. Many of her girlfriends quit their sports teams because they didn’t want to grow muscles; 4. Many of her teenage male friends, being teenage males, were unable to express their feelings.
Remember how Beyonce had that “FEMINIST” sign behind her at the MTV Video Music Awards? At times, I’m sorry to say, Watson kind of needed a giant “FIRST-WORLD PROBLEMS” sign behind her at this UN speech. “I think it is right that I am paid the same as my male counterparts,” Watson continued. “I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body.” (Here, of course, was a bout of wild applause.) “I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decisions that will affect my life.” (Good thing all women think the same!)
“But, sadly,” Watson continued, “I can say there is no one country in the world where all women can expect to see these rights.” This line, while patently absurd, was also actually quite genius, as it made everyone at the UN feel pretty darn good about themselves. I personally picture Kim Jung Un in his weird little suit, stray donut crumbs on his face, looking around and thinking, “Hey, nobody’s done it! We can’t feel that bad!” Yes, I know he wasn’t really there, but it is little wonder Watson got a standing ovation at the end of her speech.
Unfortunately, modern feminism is not, at least in the West, as Watson described it. It is not a simple quest for equal opportunity, nor is it basic common sense. It is a religion with very clear tenets—abortion, leftist politics, victimhood, and an ever-morphing “gender spectrum”—and if you don’t accept each one of these tenets, no questions asked, you’re out, sister.
This is disappointing, because it’s clear Watson is an intelligent woman who means well. It’s also difficult to substantively criticize feminism these days, given that crazy narratives—and crazy people—often emerge on the Intertubes. On Monday, the world was aghast to hear that users of the hacker website 4Chan were “retaliating” against Watson by threatening to leak nude photos. On Wednesday, a lesser portion of the world was aghast to learn that the nude photo threat was actually an awful, tasteless hoax, designed to get traffic for some weirdo marketing group—a group that also, according to some reports, might somehow be fake. You can see how it’s easy to get derailed. Also, people are crazy.
But here’s the thing: You can object to modern, pre-packaged “feminism” and not be crazy. You can support women while taking left-wing talking points with a grain of salt. You can understand that free markets have lifted more women out of poverty across the world than any government program. You can believe in justice, freedom, and empowerment and not obsess about sex and gender. Feminists, of course, never like to do this last one. It would put them—or at least their current modus operandi—right out of business.