By Morgan DeLuce
Why is “feminism” a movement only for women? It’s a question that has garnered a lot of attention recently. Many have seen the magenta photos of Emma Watson as the face of the UN Women’s HeForShe movement, which promotes gender equality as a human issue that must be tackled by everyone, men and women alike. The San Francisco chapter of the U.S. National Committee threw a celebration in honor of the men in our community who are working to promote gender equality and enact real change for women. The HeForShe Champions for Change Celebration was held at the beautiful WeWork office space in San Francisco on April 14th. Five incredible men were honored as changemakers in the gender equality sphere.
It’s not often that you see men standing up for the empowerment of women. Denying traditional masculinity in favor of gender equality is uncomfortable for many people, particularly men and boys who have been raised with the typical “Man up!” or “Boys don’t cry” sentiments that promote physical strength and emotional distance as the epitome of manhood. The men who were honored noted that one of the biggest challenges they’ve faced is overcoming other men’s discomfort in accepting that uplifting women and promoting equal rights does not mean they are weak or feminine. Even if it did, the fact that “weak” and “feminine” are terms so interconnected– that being a woman is inherently bad– is the problem our society is facing.
John Marcotte, founder of Heroic Girls, spoke in depth about the role that media and toy companies play in shaping children’s perception of gender roles. His goal is to cross the gender line– to show boys that there is “nothing shameful in a man doing a role that is normally filled by a woman… Putting yourself in a woman’s shoes does not make you less of a man, it makes you more of a person.”
Other honorees included Brian O’Connor of Futures Without Violence, Ray Arata of the Gender Leadership Group, Casey Bates, Deputy District Attorney of Alameda County, and David Batstone, Founder of Not For Sale.
The evening celebrated the humanity of all people and the ability of men to step up in the face of gender discrimination. David Batstone said it best: “We now live the tragic consequences of a planet where women are given a minor role in the plot; we can design a beautiful future where women and men write stories together.” Each of the five honored men are working towards a society that is just that: free, equal, and inspiring for everyone, regardless of one’s gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age, ability, religion or sexual orientation. The freedom of men and women to live their lives according to their own choices is a right we are still fighting for across the globe. The HeForShe event celebrated working towards those rights: shattering gender barriers, empowering women to thrive, and showing men that being a “man” comes second to being a human being.
HeForShe is UN Women’s global movement that invites men to join women in the campaign for gender equality. The campaign has galvanized more than a billion people across the world to become advocates for women and girls.