By: Shannon Ralph
I love Emma Watson. I truly adore her as much as I am capable of adoring a person that I have never met. It may seem odd for a 42-year-old lesbian mom to be a rabid fan of a 24-year-old “Harry Potter girl” (as she described herself in her recent impassioned speech before the United Nations), but I find myself in awe of young women today who are outspoken on issues that matter. Young women who are not ashamed of their innate intelligence. Who are engaging and articulate and do not hide their sharp intellect behind duck lips and twerks. These young women are my heroes.
I watched Emma’s speech on my laptop last week with barely concealed excitement. There might have been fist pumps involved. I am embarrassed to say that I may have inadvertently uttered the mortifying phrase, “You go, girl.” And—it has been reported, but is entirely unconfirmed—there may have been whoops of elation that startled the children and terrified the dog.
I am a feminist and a lesbian, and I love men. I am particularly in love with two rather short men who currently live in my house. As the mother of two amazing, sensitive, funny little boys and one strong, outspoken, sassy little girl, I agreed whole-heartedly with every word Emma said. Gender inequality is an issue that belongs to both men and women. Feminism is a human issue.
And, I would argue, it is an especially crucial parenting issue.
As a parent, my decisions revolve around my children. My beliefs, my morals, my energies, my causes, my passions—everything is centered on making this world a better place for my children.
My heart breaks at the thought of my young sons losing their gentleness. Their sweet sensitivity. Their kindness. Their ability to express emotions in a healthy way. I can’t stand the thought of them being forced to conform to some ill-conceived ideal of emotionally-stunted masculinity.
And my stomach churns when I think about the brazen confidence that is inherent in my sassy little girl being systematically erased by gender inequality. I cringe at the thought of my daughter’s astute mind being ignored while her body becomes a focus of scrutiny. To think that her barometer of worth may be squarely focused on her appearance rather than all of the amazing qualities that make her a phenomenal human being simply kills me.
Studies show that a girl’s self-esteem plummets around age 12. My daughter is 8 years old. NOW is the time to act. Now is the time to step up. As a parent, how can I be anything BUT a raging feminist? Why haven’t all parents taken to the streets to demand gender equality?
As I perused the internet last week, I read headlines like, “Emma Watson Delivers Game-Changing Speech on Feminism.” And “Emma Watson’s Watershed Speech on Gender Equality.” And later, because she dared to make a logical argument for feminism, “Internet Trolls Threaten Emma Watson after Gender Equality Speech,” and even “Emma Watson Should SHUT UP, All This Abuse is Her OWN FAULT.”
All of these headlines made be incredibly sad.
We are living in 2014. Women make up roughly fifty-one percent of the world’s population. We are not a minority, yet we are not treated as equals. Humans have inhabited this Earth for 200,000 years. In all that time, we have not managed to come to the realization that women should be treated as the equals of men. That the little boys and the little girl living in our homes deserve the same respect. The same opportunities. The same rights. The same responsibilities. The same credit. We have failed to grasp the harm we are doing to our children by perpetuating these disparate myths about gender.
The fact that a 24-year-old “Harry Potter girl” presenting a perfectly sensible—consummately logical—argument that female human beings and male human beings should be treated equally is lauded as a “game changer” and a “watershed” moment is proof positive that our society is broken. And the backlash her speech garnered is merely icing on the reprehensible cake of gender inequality.
(Okay, so that last metaphor may have been a bit dramatic. I am hungry and I may need some cake.)
In short, it saddens me that we are still having this conversation. And it angers me. It pisses me off to no end to think of Emma Watson—a beautiful, brilliant, accomplished young woman—receiving less recognition than her male counterparts. It infuriates me that my own daughter—a beautiful, brilliant, accomplished young girl—will likely be formatting the same arguments when she is 24 years old.
It saddens me and it angers me. If all the parents of the world would take a stand for their children—for their little boys and their little girls—imagine the new reality we could create. If every parent got on board, we could truly make this a better world for our children. For all children. Isn’t it our responsibility as parents to embrace this cause? To fully subscribe to the ideals of feminism for our daughters AND our sons?
I am a feminist.
And I am a mom.
And Emma Watson’s speech rightfully pissed me off.
(Now I must go eat some cake.)
Here is the speech if you haven’t seen it.