Feminism is Not Dead - But it May Have a New Name
This past week, amid continued reports of criminal and misogynist indiscretions by NFL players, and against the backdrop of a serially deaf and inept response by those that employ them, it has been encouraging and galvanizing to see some entertainment luminaries deliver brilliant speeches to massive audiences, addressing glaring deficiencies in gender equality the world over.
“This is the first campaign of its kind at the UN: we want to try and galvanize as many men and boys as possible to be advocates for gender equality. And we don’t just want to talk about it, but make sure it is tangible.“
Watson goes on to note that gender equality (or feminism or whichever name you chose) cannot and should not be a cause taken up solely by women. It affects us all. Watson says that in her own upbringing, it has often been the men that served as “gender equality ambassadors that made (me) who I am today. They may not know it, but they are the inadvertent feminists… And we need more of those. And if you still hate the word—it is not the word that is important but the idea and the ambition behind it.”
Then, on Sunday, John Oliver delivered a most poignant critique of the continued disgrace that is the annual Miss America pageant.
Beyond the clear misrepresentation of the pageant’s mandate and the inflated scholarship numbers, there are two strikingly appalling aspects to this story. One, that women are still paraded like this in front of a national TV audience, stripped down to a bikini kept in place with “but glue”, required to perform demeaning talent acts, then asked insanely complex questions with 20 seconds to respond. The fact that this embarrassing farcical relic still exists, in this form, is beyond crazy and it contributes to that gender polarization Watson outlined in her UN speech.
But second, and perhaps most alarming is the fact that if the Miss America pageant does indeed provide the most scholarships to women in the US (as they claim), and that in order to qualify for those you must sink, not rise to that pageants’ archaic and puritanical criteria, well that is something that needs to change NOW, for the good of us all.
Or as Watson more eloquently said it:
“I want men to take up this mantle. So their daughters, sisters and mothers can be free from prejudice but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too—reclaim those parts of themselves they abandoned and in doing so be a more true and complete version of themselves.“