Although it may be difficult to believe, Emma Watson’s He for She speech will be three years old this year. It is appropriate to say that the speech had a significant impact on many people, making us all re-evaluate what it means to be a man or woman in the modern day. We were encouraged to think about what it means to be a feminist regardless of whether or not it is a title that we identify as personally. Emma Watson made an incredible speech; arguably one of the most influential ones of our generation and three years after its delivery seems like an appropriate time to look at how much change has occurred in our own lives and how much change is yet to occur in the wider world.
Three years is a relatively long period of time. As individuals, we have all gained so much more life experience and the past few years have been ones of development, change and new experiences. Some of us will have finished our A-levels and started our degrees, others will be seeing their end. Three years will have seen many of us vote for the first time and become proud members of the electorate with an opinion and a way of expressing it. Others will have taken the first steps into their careers’. We are incredibly lucky that we don’t see these stages in life as gender specific, but this is not the case for all.
While it may seem like our own lives are propelling forward, it is rather surprising that in the past three years, basic rights are still being denied to women around the world, as they continue to be today. For example, in Saudi Arabia, women are still fighting for the right to drive. In Egypt, husbands are able to prevent their wives’ from going abroad. In Lebanon, women cannot get a divorce for abuse, even if they have medical proof of being physically harmed. Some countries don’t even punish domestic violence as it is regarded as a private matter that the state should not intervene with.
Despite the fact that, in Russia, a woman dies every forty minutes from cases of domestic violence, Putin has recently decriminalised specific types of it. Some suggest that this has protected families from state intervention on private affairs whereas others argue that it is a threat to the protection of women. Although domestic violence that inflicts serious physical damage will continue to be punished, it could be argued that this law has presented domestic violence as acceptable for all other cases. The Russian Orthodox Church has supported this new law, as they have suggested that it is a parents’ right (given by God) to punish their children physically. Consequently, it could be fair to argue that the fight for women’s rights and gender equality is actually taking a step back in instances such as these.
In addition to the legal issues that separate the genders, social issues also continue to present problems for gender equality. For example, idealised and unrealistic images of masculinity have generated a large business in steroids to help some achieve a specific physique at the expense of their health. As well as physical strength, men are also pressured to be emotionally strong and thus told to conceal their feelings, even if this has negative effects on their mental health. The stereotypical image of femininity also creates issues as women aren’t always taken seriously if they express that they want to focus on their career and not raise a family. But them potentially taking maternity leave presents an excuse for unequal pay in the work-place.
Although the He for She speech was a few years ago, the issues that it raised are still very important and relevant. We are lucky that we have seen a considerable degree of progression regarding gender equality, such as the removal of the tampon tax in the UK and the doubling of female MP’s world-wide. However, we must be aware of the issues that continue to exist and should, therefore, be resolved. Women are still denied the vote in the Vatican City and the issue of child brides continues in countries like Nepal, where 37% of girls are married before adulthood. Yes, progress is being made, but it is important to remember that there is a long way to go in order to reach gender equality both in the UK and in the wider world.