Over the past year – despite the rise in a fight for gender equality – I have heard and seen a lot of people saying they “wish they were alive in the 1920’s”. They say this because of the poofy dresses, the jazz music, and because that’s the era of Great Gatsby. Obviously, they don’t mean that they wish women and minorities rights were the same as in that time – but I can’t help but wonder… is it really all too different than what we see today?
Obviously, women can vote and have more rights; but for both men and women, there is still a long way to go in the push for gender equality.
UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and actress Emma Watson recently gave a stirring speech at the UN, praising feminism but more importantly underlining the problems men face in the world. There is a stereotype that men are strong, and can’t cry or break down or do anything that makes them not emotionally or physically strong.
In the UK suicide is the number one cause of deaths in men. Mind you I can’t find the number one cause for females, but there is something to be said for a woman standing up for men’s rights (not to mention that that statistic is pretty startling, and a strong indicator that something needs to change).
She also acknowledged the role men can play in advocating for women’s rights, and vice versa, stressing the fact that this is everyone’s problem, and everyone’s fight.
Just a few weeks ago, “news” (if you can really call it that) broke out that Taylor Swift is a feminist. She didn’t suddenly become one, though – people have been wondering about it for a while because of some of her song lyrics, and she decided that she was a feminist after learning what that title really means.
I think the title of feminist is widely misunderstood. My English teacher describes it as “wanting equal rights for men and women,” while Google defines it as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” The UN campaign “HeForShe” (which Emma Watson is affiliated with) defines their goal as ending inequalities for women and girls through reaching out to men and boys.
I’ve never heard of an official title for those advocating for a similar movement for men, although Wikipedia tells me that a “masculist” is someone who promotes gender equality and is often considered a male feminist.
I think both genders have a long way to go in terms of reaching equality; so that they are not only equal to each other, but are also equal to what they think they deserve to be. The question is how to get there.
I think we all know why things need to change, even if some of the lines are blurred. How they will change is more difficult. How will the feminist movement progress? How can it, when people – superstar and famed role model Taylor Swift included – don’t understand what it means? Will feminists merge with those who wish to promote gender equality as a whole?
As for the last question, I kind of doubt it. Many people view feminism as “man-hating”, and it is labels like these that slow progress of any kind, for any gender and in any battle for equality.
The bottom line is that if we can all agree that something needs to change – whatever that something is – then we can all work together to achieve it. Maybe it means being more respectful and thoughtful in pop culture, and specifically, music. Maybe it means promoting gender equality as a whole, or taking the time to study and learn from speeches like Emma Watsons’.
This last point isn’t a maybe; it is an absolute. Maybe we can do all of those things, but absolutely, the vessel of change lies within us. It lies within advocates, and bloggers, and those who don’t know the answer but aren’t afraid to pursue it. It lies within you – so let’s work together to make people not say they would rather live in the 1920’s, but rather in a world where there is true gender equality.