When Emma Watson delivered her first speech in her role as UN Women Goodwill Ambassador last month, it was to launch the HeForShe campaign. A campaign focussed on eradicating gender inequality across the globe with a particular emphasis on highlighting to males everywhere that “gender equality is your issue too”. The concept is a great one.
Historically, inequalities have generally been fought against by only those experiencing the inequality, whether this is fighting against racism or fighting against your primary school to allow you to wear trousers instead of a skirt…
HeForShe made the point that for true gender equality to exist, all genders need to support it.
The internet went pretty crazy about her speech with various male celebrities immediately getting involved and declaring that they are a man who is going to stand up for women’s rights… And here lies my first criticism of the campaign.
Are you a man who is going to stand up for women’s rights?
I am not a man. But I want to take part and stand up for women’s rights. So where is my box to tick? Where is my form to fill in to show my support? Answers on a postcard please, all genders welcome to participate.
To me this is an epic fail. I get that the campaign is called HeForShe and therefore implies that they want men to support the movement but excluding anyone from showing support for gender equality feels to me like a bit of an oxymoron.
As I said, the internet went crazy for HeForShe and in particular, Emma Watson.
— Tom Hiddleston (@twhiddleston) September 24, 2014
— Harry Styles. (@Harry_Styles) September 25, 2014
— Simon Pegg (@simonpegg) September 23, 2014
— David Tennant (@David_Tennant) September 29, 2014
If you were measuring success on mentions/coverage etc, you would be pretty pleased with these results. But, if you’re working on a behavioural change campaign, are these results actually showing that there has been a behavioural change? There’s clearly plenty of awareness, but change, I don’t think so.
And really isn’t that what the over-arching purpose of this campaign is? Not to get celebs on board and show their support, but to actively make people change their behaviour towards gender equality?
I have seen no actual campaigning on HeForShe. Perhaps the UN has got lots of campaign activity planned and I’m simply jumping the gun but in today’s inter-connected world, can you really launch a behavioural change campaign without any immediate campaigning?
I feel that without this, the HeForShe campaign runs the risk of being debate fodder for journalists and digital activists that makes everyone feel part of the issue, whilst alleviating it’s real purpose, to change behaviour to make everyone act on the issue.