Gender equality? Hey ho, let's go!
Advertisement

Gender equality? Hey ho, let's go!

Watching Emma Watson's much-discussed speech about feminism at the United Nations last month gave me the same feeling I have when I see teenagers wearing Ramones T-shirts.

You can't argue with their taste but they do seem a little late to the party considering every original member of the band is dead.

<i>Illustration: michaelmucci.com</i>

Illustration: michaelmucci.com

I guess that's what youth's for – stumbling upon revelations and rock bands and reciting them wide-eyed like you're on Mount Sinai hearing the word of God for the first time.

Meanwhile the rest of us wrinkly types have lived with the sacred word of gender equality (and the Ramone's Blitzkrieg Bop) for decades, imbuing our families and peer group with its simple but profound truth: Men and women should and can do everything the other can – except for giving birth and reading on the toilet for hours.

Watson's widely-publicised contention that feminism has become a synonym for man-hating is sadly accurate in many circles but most men I know define the term as simply another word for equality.

Advertisement

The Harry Potter actress's epiphany that men should be encouraged to fight for gender parity would also seem self-evident, however, it was the response of some "professional" feminists that illustrated why the man-hating trope lingers with such virulence.

One writer sneered at Watson's attitude of detente in the gender wars, suggesting "it's no longer enough to demonstrate to men the reality of gender oppression through activism and adult dialogue – now we must 'engage' them as one would a child, encouraging them to see how behavioural change will also benefit them".

I reckon a lot of men and women read that kind of contempt from a supposed torchbearer for enlightenment and equality and switch off.

Why listen to arguments about the transgressions of patriarchy, however valid, from people who ape its worst habits and patronise anyone who they perceive as "other", or doesn't talk in the narrow, sanitised language of liberal academia?

Another commentator suggested "men have never been overwhelmingly interested in fighting that fight [equality] because it requires them giving up power and all evidence suggests that's not their super-fave thing".

The feminist requirement that men's participation in the gender equality conversation include an "acknowledgement of their own privilege and power" strikes many guys without power or privilege as ritual humiliation –an apology for other's infractions – that diminishes the very real issues faced by the billions of humans who are not female.

The assertion men "unknowingly" or "subconsciously" oppress women is a grubby rhetorical trick of the same stripe as the concept of original sin.

The savaging Watson copped in some quarters for daring to suggest collaboration with men instead of condescension showed once again that, if you want to discuss gender equality publicly, you must couch it in terms so opaque, so riddled with politically-correct qualifiers, it loses meaning to everyone but women's studies graduates.

The most powerful, effective feminists I know don't live on Twitter railing against stupid beer ads and rape scenes in Game of Thrones – they compete against and beat men. They don't demand equality – they assume it.

At 24, Watson surely has a lot to learn about life and feminism, yet her generation's willingness to embrace collaboration strikes me as a far more effective way to combat those who'd deny women their rights, and the women who'd deny men must play a part in it.

As the Ramones would say: "Hey ho, let's go!"

Twitter: @samdebrito

Sam de Brito has spent more than a decade writing for TV, film and newspapers. In his books, No Tattoos Before You’re Thirty and No Sex With Your Ex, he offers advice to his unborn children. In his offerings The Lost Boys and Hello Darkness, he takes the pulse of Aussie manhood.