It’s been a long long time since my last post. During this year I started working in Vietnam, on a very interesting project on child trafficking in the Great Mekong Subregion and the time to write has been kind of limited. Actually, really, it hasn’t. It just took me a long long time to get used to this gigantic Asia where socialism, capitalism, shrines, malls, Sunday brunches, lunar calendars and scooters meet.
My work faced me with challenges: some were blatant (inefficiencies, delays, bureaucracy), and those were the easiest ones to overcome, some were so subtle that it was hard to even understand what was wrong.
One thing that I had time and several occasions to think about and metabolize is feminism.
2014 seems to be the year of feminism (and of course of the Horse, in the Chinese calendar…). Not only you have to be for or against feminism but you have to be openly so. If only you do your bit.. nah… totally not enough, you are not doing it right, as my sister would say. I say this because Emma Watson’s speech at the UN Council is rather recent and I think that that was a bit of a turning point.
The first woman to speak before the UN Assembly was the Norwegian delegate in 1946, but very few mentioned that. Everyone in the past two weeks was too busy siding Ms Watson “for her brave act and for speaking out loud, for nonchalantly mentioning feminism and for endorsing the #HeforShe campaign” or trying to destroy her for involving men in a women’s issue (both men and women were outraged).
Personally, think many missed the true meaning of this: Emma Watson is a symbol, she is what the majority of public opinions around the world can understand, relate to and digest with a slight degree of challenge. She said “feminism”, she said she is a feminist. And while people were either extatic or outraged she gave a rather bland speech that any politician could have given: including those who are often (and wrongly) perceived as “enemies”, dropping a bomb (the F(eminism) word) and explaining how this is a global issue. She did what she was supposed to do, she is young, she is talented, has a degree from a prestigious university, she is also pretty (which in politics is always a bonus). What did those who wanted her to say more expect? I presume her speech was written months ago and rehearsed, rehearsed and rehearsed a little bit more. What happens in politics, unless it’s in movies, is almost never an outburst of sincere passion. In politics even passion is carefully staged.
I have trouble understanding those who clearly stated that “she said feminism concerns us all, even if we are men. I tell you what.. not me!”, but then again, I feel towards those who refuse feminism as I feel towards those who don’t believe in human or gay rights: how on earth can you not believe that those who suffer from a disadvantage unrelated to their actions should not see said disadvantage erased? To an extent I understand better those who are against abortion, I still strongly disagree and think they should be kept out of politics, but if you follow the word of God, as long as you do it with your own body, who am I to judge? But denying that sexism exists, denying VAW, denying access to reproductive care is criminal. And none of these things spring solely out of fundamentalist countries, all the above mentioned things happen on a daily basis in the US, Italy, the UK…
As I said before the fundamentals of feminism are: freedom from violence, financial autonomy and free choice on reproductive health, I honestly struggle to see what you might disagree with.
Anyway, back to Emma Watson, I liked her speech for what it was, a political, timed, speech. If you were looking for a feminist revolution you were a fool to go and look for it at the UN Council. Other than that I agree on the inclusion of men but warmly disagree with the terms and conditions: HeforShe implies that the knight (any of the good looking actors who hold a #HeforShe paper) comes in to save the damsel in distress.
We are not damsels and we are not in distress, we don’t need your help: we want to walk holding hands, together. He for she and she for he. Once again, just to make it extra clear, no one needs saving, we all need equality.