Emma Watson, Feminism and Gender Stereotypes

Emma Watson, Feminism and Gender Stereotypes

Emma Watson, Feminism and Gender Stereotypes

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to discuss Emma Watson’s new push for feminism and a viral letter by a 15-year old boy responding to her.

First a quick update:

“Hollywood and it’s gender stereotyping of men”
Advertising, TV and film portray men as inept idiots; will it change? Read my insights and opinion in the article about the attack on men on Foxnews.com 

Follow me on Twitter – You can now choose to follow me and receive a few words of wisdom on Twitter: @Behavior_Expert

Now, let’s talk about Emma Watson’s new push for feminism and a viral letter by a 15-year old boy responding to her.

British actress Emma Watson gave a speech to the UN asking men to join in the push for gender equality and feminism. The global response was generally positive. She was criticized for omitting poor and colored women who face many more challenges than white women.

Ed Holtom, a 15-year old boy in the UK wrote a letter, which was published in the Telegraph and it went viral.  He supported Emma’s speech:

“We’re lucky to live in a Western world where women can speak out against stereotypes. It’s a privilege. Gender equality and feminism is not about ‘man-hating’ or the idea of ‘female supremacy.’ It is, by definition, the opposite…The definition of feminism is, ‘a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.’ It’s pretty simple really, and if you believe in those things, then you’re a feminist… If we want equality, it will take more effort than paying women the same as men, or giving women equal opportunities…We must not let gender define us.”

It is true that feminism began as the push for equality for women. Plato supported child care so women could be soldiers, and according to Professor Elaine Hoffman Baruch of York College, Plato “[argued] for the total political and sexual equality of women, advocating that they be members of his highest class…those who rule and fight”.

In the 15th century French author Christine De Pazin wrote against misogyny.

In the 19th century, Sojourner Truth gave a speech calling for equality for black women. “Ain’t I a woman?”

However, the Women’s Liberation Movement which began in the 1960s was later criticized for promoting female superiority rather than female equality.

Kurt Cobain of Nirvana was a feminist even though he actually longed for the maternal comfort of traditional relationships (something he didn’t receive as a child.)

In her speech, Emma Watson also pointed out that “fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating…this has to stop.”

In 2011, I pointed out that advertising, TV and even films have chosen to portray men as bumbling buffoons, idiots, irresponsible, inept fathers, insignificant.

The woman, on the other hand is portrayed as the skilled, highly intelligent, dominant decision-maker.

This doesn’t encourage men to support women since it pits the sexes against each other and it mistakenly promotes female empowerment and capability as only being possible when measured against and compared with men who are dumb and useless.

Ed Holtom, in his letter, promotes 3 key points:

  1. Make women equal
  2. Abolish stereotypes
  3. Stop defining people by gender

To promote equality, we must first clearly define it; referring to it as “social, political and economic equality” is rather vague. In other words, what exactly are the expectations and parameters that would define, for example, “social equality”? I will refer again to this later.

A stereotype is “…a fixed, over generalized belief about a particular group or class of people.” (Mike Cardwell, 1996)  It doesn’t allow for individual differences or characteristics. Thus, if we tear down the stereotypes of men and of women, with what do we replace them? What are the new expectations of men and of women?

“Traditionally, the female stereotypic role is to marry and have children. She is also to put her family’s welfare before her own; be loving, compassionate, caring, nurturing, and sympathetic; and find time to be sexy and feel beautiful. The male stereotypic role is to be the financial provider. He is also to be assertive, competitive, independent, courageous, and career‐focused; hold his emotions in check; and always initiate sex.” – Planned Parenthood 

The question then becomes, will women be happy and satisfied if the roles are reversed?

Can the woman become the provider while the man has no career focus? Will women be happy when the man stays at home while she works?

Will women be expected to pay for outings and dinners when dating?

Based on the media’s portrayal of men as inferior idiots, are we not already creating new stereotypes and expectations for men and for women?

– Women must be career driven and successful in every area of life (beautiful, sexy and sexually appealing at every age), holding high positions; they must have it all (devoted husband, loving family & children, fulfilling & well-paid career, independence and freedom)

What about the women who choose to play a more traditional role – staying at home, and the man being the provider?

Further, with the dissolution of stereotypes, again, what happens to traditional responsibilities? Will men still be expected to be protectors of women? Will they still be expected to be courageous or should women now protect men?

The above sounds absurd.

There are gender differences and there cannot be equality in every area and every aspect between the sexes; there can only be equal and mutual love and respect.

One cannot argue for total equality and then place parameters or limitations.

For example, we want women to have more positions of power in corporations, but do we also want them to be equal in numbers of men in the lowest ranks of employment? Should we rally that there be as many women collecting garbage, and that there be as many women in the armed forces as there are men?

Should we enact legislation for the armed forces requiring that 40% be made up of women, the same way that Norway enacted legislation in 2003 requiring 40% of all board seats of publicly traded companies to be occupied by women?

Some would argue that women simply want equal opportunity to choose whatever job they want, and they should be granted that, but, what about equal responsibility?  Can and should women have one without the other – opportunities without responsibilities?

Will we expect as much of women as we do of men currently – to be the provider and protector, to perform the most dangerous, dirtiest, lowliest or lowest paying jobs?

Will we expect as much of men as we do of women currently – to be the nurturer, to be the primary caretaker of the children, to be everything to everyone?

Again, we must accept as fact that men and women are different, while still offering equal and mutual respect.

For example:

There are more men in prison than women; more male alcoholics and male addicts than female alcoholics and addicts.

Autism is 5 times more common among boys than among girls; this is believed to be explained by the differences in the expression and regulation of the genes in the brain.

Depression is much more common in women than men

Women’s sensory abilities are much more powerful than men’s (heightened and acute senses of taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing.) Again. these are not attributable to cultural programming but instead to biological and neurological differences. Click to read more.

In a study by Penn Medicine, it was found that due to neural wiring differences, females outperformed males on attention, word and face memory, and social cognition tests. Males performed better on spatial processing and sensorimotor speed. Those differences were most pronounced in the 12 to 14 age range. Females are better at multitasking than males. Click to read more.

There are also differences in motivation between the males and females regardless of opportunity. Research by Jacquelynne Eccles has repeatedly proven that the shortage of females in math and science is a reflection of lower motivation rather than a lack of ability or opportunity. Click to read more.

Ed Holtom also says we shouldn’t define people by gender. That argument is equivalent and akin to saying we shouldn’t define anyone by one aspect alone; we shouldn’t define people by their job, car, money, status, education, religion or residence. However, he doesn’t say by what we should define people. All of the above are components of the way we perceive people. More importantly, we should allow people to define themselves, and if they choose gender as part of that identity and definition, so be it. The many people who suffer from conflicts around gender identity would argue that gender is an important part of the way they define themselves, albeit contrary to society’s norms.

While it might be politically pleasing to promote “equality for women” and to rally ‘let’s not define people by gender’ we cannot escape the fact that this cannot occur within the context of the world’s main religions which, promote that the man is the head of the household, and/or women should be submissive to men. (The Bible specifically refers to woman as “the weaker vessel” – 1 Peter 3:7 ) A married Orthodox Jewish woman cannot touch any man other than her husband; she cannot even shake the hand of another man. Only recently did Orthodox Judaism accept women as Rabbis but they are still limited in their powers – there are three major things Orthodox female rabbis cannot do based on Jewish laws written in the Torah. Click to read more.

So, when can we expect to see a female Pope? When can we expect to hear the President of the United States say “A real woman doesn’t hit a man”?

Finally, as mentioned numerous times in this article, I promote equal and mutual respect and love, but I also choose to favor women with even greater respect and value not because they are inferior or in any way unequal but rather because I appreciate and value the innate differences and the roles which they choose to adopt. Accordingly, if a male chooses to be chivalrous, extra attentive or particularly respectful and favoring to a female, does that imply that he is therefore sexist, stereotypical or gender-driven? Are his actions to be welcomed by the new woman and by the men of tomorrow? (Read my  article “If chivalry  is dead, who killed it?”)

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

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    Jennifer Rodriguez says:

    Hi Patrick,
    Great article. You do a good job of pointing out how complex this whole issue of equality can get. I think it comes down to one thing – accepting that there are differences and not making anyone wrong or “inferior” for those differences. Understanding and acceptance are the keys.

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