Emma Watson, feminism and thoughts from my college advisor

“All that is needed for the forces of evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing.”

~Emma Watson, quoting Edmund Burke at the United Nations

I recently watched Emma Watson’s speech to the UN about feminism. I had shivers the whole time. She got me thinking about digging up this post I wrote a while ago, but was too timid to publish, because for some reason “feminism” has recently become a hot-button issue.

Then I read about all the horrible threats she is getting as a result of her speech and shamefully, my first thought was “how terrifying – well, I can’t write about feminism now.”

And that is exactly why I’m posting this.

I am a feminist. An outspoken, virulent feminist.

This means I believe that women deserve political, economic and social equality to men.

This does not mean I hate men. That is not feminism.

That is sexism.

Here are some things about me:

  • I prepare my husband’s lunch every day and cook dinner most evenings
  • I knit
  • I like flippy floral skirts

I am still a feminist.

  • I do the DYI fix-it projects in our home
  • I like bugs and dirt
  • I don’t know how to apply make up

I am still a feminist.

A few years ago when I was graduating from college, my advisor asked me what my plans were. I talked about writing, about some non-profit work I wanted to continue doing in Southern Africa, about traveling with my husband and rescuing a shelter dog.

She looked at me and said “But what about a baby? You have to start planning for that before it’s too late and all that other stuff is just going to get in the way. You must want to have a baby, it’s the most important thing a woman can do.”

After I found my voice, I explained that having a baby was not, and never had been part of my plan. She scoffed at me and said that I would change my mind and that I needed to have a baby because only then would I be a “real woman.”

That’s why I’m a feminist.

Because no one should be allowed to dictate what a “real woman” does or does not do.

Because no graduating male would have been told that his professional aspirations needed to be put on hold to procreate.

My gender should not dictate the dreams I’m allowed to have for myself.

There is nothing wrong with having children, or not having children, it’s a personal choice. There is more than one way to live, and I’m not saying that having children is wrong any more than I am saying that parasailing is wrong just because I don’t choose to do it.

It’s easy for many of us to look around and think that women have it pretty good right now, but the struggle for equality is not over. Women still only make 77 cents for each dollar a man makes, and that number goes drops even further for black and Latina women. And let’s not get into rape and domestic abuse stats.

I see a lot of young women rejecting feminism, and I’m not saying everyone has to be a feminist. But I think feminism has a branding problem. Like Emma Watson says it’s not anti-man. It’s about equality. And I think it’s becoming too common to write off what feminists of the past have done for women and take for granted the rights that women currently have in this country.

To the men: please understand that feminism is not a threat to you. Feminists are not trying to hate you or replace you or undermine you. Feminism is open to you, as well, and it’s an invitation for you to defend human rights and enable your wives, sisters, mothers and friends the freedom to be their authentic selves. In breaking down gender stereotypes, you become freer as well. You are not required to be the breadwinner, you can cry at the movies and walk through the door first if you want to.

And to the women: You don’t have to say you are a feminist. But if you like being able to wear jeans – you should thank one.

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67 thoughts on “Emma Watson, feminism and thoughts from my college advisor

  1. I love Emma Watson, I loved her speech and I reeeeeeeeally loved this post. Keep inspiring you wonderful feminist women… I am one for sure!
    Greetings from Argentina ❤

  2. Thank you! You said the one thing many will never understand. I do not have to have a baby to be complete. It was in my plan only if I felt I was in the right place with the right person. Not just because I was expected to procreate. Later I realized I really didn’t want them. And now that I have the person, I still don’t. I agree with everything you said!

  3. I can’t remember who said it, but someone said that being a feminist is an act of gratitude to those women who went before you to fight for the rights we now enjoy.

    It can be hard to be an open feminist particularly in this day and age, as it’s become a bit of a dirty word (You only need to see the amount of anti-feminism videos on YouTube!). I am very thankful that you posted this blog; hopefully it will help to dispel some unfair and incorrect stereotypes!

  4. Dear Lisa,
    I discovered your blog a few weeks ago, when I was reading about Robin Williams death and I love the way you share your experiences and emotions.
    You are a great writer. Thank you and keep it up!
    Best wishes from Spain!

  5. Tremendous! I am so happy to have found this blog, even if a sad event led me to it (the passing of Robin Williams).

    I very much admire your worldview…please continue speaking your truth. it is very refreshing to read.

  6. For years now, I’ve referred to myself as an Equalist – ashamed to use “the F word” because of all the negative connotations and the actions of extremists. Emma’s speech gave me the hope that we can not only reclaim “the F word” but remould it into something new and clearer. A bit like cleaning off the dirty, cobwebby mirror that’s been hidden in your Great-Aunt’s attic for the past half-century – it was always capable of reflection, but you had to clear the shit off it first so that it could serve its true purpose.

    So now I’m gonna say it… I am a Feminist. I love men. I only wear skirts. I change my own oil and tyres on my ute. I bake cakes. I paint, write and sing. I am 34, single, and am unable to have children. I am me. I do not need to fit inside the box that this patriarchal society made for myself and the rest of the female gender. In fact, I quite like the unknown space outside that box, where I can create my own reality. I am not afraid to fall, because I know my own strength and know I can recover from most anything. I am the equal of everyone around me, whether they accept it or not, and I am capable of anything. Hold me back or knock me down at your own risk! 🙂

    Great piece, Lisa. It was a rousing speech by Emma and I’m so glad it’s started these conversations about Feminism.

  7. I’m a woman and I like to think of myself as an egalitarian, rather than a feminist. After all, men’s rights and freedoms matter, too, and I feel like feminism tends to either ignore men or demonize them these days. And, as a person who cares for all human beings, no matter what their gender, I want everyone to have equal rights and equal freedoms. So that’s why I don’t call myself a feminist.

    • Individual misguided feminists may demonise men, but feminism doesn’t. Protecting men’s rights and freedoms are part of feminism.You are a feminist if you want those things. By refusing to call yourself a feminist, you damage the movement by shaming it. What you do is up to you but think about it. While I can see where they come from, your objections to feminism aren’t valid.

      • How come most feminsts think that “the patriarchy” is the cause of most of the world’s problems, then, rather than admitting that some women are at fault as well? And how come most feminists would rather see men as being potential rapists/perverts/sexists than actually own up to the fact that there are plenty of kind, loving men in the world? And how come most feminists think that men’s problems simply matter less than women’s problems do, and thus, don’t speak up for men who have been raped by women, men who were falsely accused of rape by women, and men who weren’t granted custody of their kids in a divorce case? Seriously, feminism is doing nearly nothing to help men and plenty to hurt them.

  8. I was raised by a woman…wait a minute, let’s get this straight: You are 27 years-old, you are a woman, an attractive woman, it is the beginning of the sixties and you are married to a Captain, an army pilot who is a commander of a Helo-wing in Korea and you have five little one’s all boys, the eldest is six and the youngest, twins, are just seven months old. You get a visit from the local priest to tell you that your husband was blown to bits in a flight accident. You have a degree in Nursing where you have studied Micro-biology and Organic chem plus many more tough classes like physics…you had to work hard, harder than your brothers before you. You are part of a legacy and have to prove yourself even more because you are a woman sorry I meant just a stupid girl. Now without a husband or an escape plan the Army doesn’t give her assistance only assistance she gets is an offer for her to become an Officer in the Army and the Army would see to it that the five boy’s adoption papers would be taken care of… AND you are not saved by your family because you have sisters who have been jealous of you for so long. Nope, you have to brave it by yourself…

    She did great my mom, I never felt unsafe and to this day – she is 87 years young – I still go to her for help or advice. She has lost her sight but not her vision.

    She taught me that what you have to offer, what you have to give is the most essential and vital pulse of any society regardless of gender, race or creed.

    She became a chief inspector of hospitals and nursing homes for the District of Columbia. Her life and her children’s life were threatened because of her unwavering duty. She helped change laws and regulations. She shook things up. And she was only paid half of what her male peers were making. She was bribed all the time. She could have used the money but her convictions taught her to keep going to never give up. She never gave us up and she never remarried … she dated but it was tough seeing five tough little boys standing in their pj’s arms folded looking at the guy who is taking their mother out to dinner.

    I prefer the company of women they usually have better stories.

    • “I prefer the company of women they usually have better stories.”

      This sort of remark is why I’ll never call myself a feminist. Nice sexism there, gomezheroin.

      • Visit Wall Street for a week…

        I am glad that you have equal values and are gender free but the world is being driven to a point where Ball-hanging-swag seems to be the gist of violent responses…we need empathy and gumption and we need two genders equal and forthright. We need more women on the Bridge because what the men are doing up there is getting a little stale and poisoned.

      • I love how you’re pretending that most men are violent. How is that not anything but extreme sexism? There are plenty of empathetic men out there. My own father and brother are two of them. Stop with the misandry already.

      • That’s literally not sexism. Sexism would be saying, ‘women are better,’ or ‘women always have better stories than men’. Saying you prefer the company of women is not sexist at all.

      • She did say “women have better stories than men.” Is English not your first language or something? I just honestly don’t understand why you’re trying to pretend she didn’t actually say what she said.

      • The poster said ‘they USUALLY have better stories’. Reread it. Try to look past what you want to see and see what’s actually there.

    • Try to see the larger picture here! She’s talking about strength, courage and conviction during a time of female suppression. There was so much to admire about her mother, and all the mothers that stood tall, and strong, and sacrificed for their families. I love some men, but, when I need to share, I love my girlfriends.

      • Yeah… you know I am one of the Five boy’s in this story… I made it to manhood, I think…But I’ll take the He for She; Feminism is equality and we need a serious effort in this beginning century. And careful readers…

  9. You HAD to have a baby in order to be a REAL woman? I believe I have the perfect word to describe how I’d feel if someone said that to me: Gobsmacked. Seriously. WTF?
    I went to a women’s college, and when I had a friend get pregnant (she was married, and wanted a child, despite being only 21), half of the class she announced it to were pissed at her for “throwing her life away.” I fear that some people who identify with feminism are only okay with choice if your choices match theirs.

    • “I fear that some people who identify with feminism are only okay with choice if your choices match theirs.”

      So true, Beks! Feminism has become a philosophy of “you’re either with us or you’re against us,” which goes completely against the equality that they claim to support. If feminists really did support equality, they’d show love and compassion to those who have different viewpoints than their own, and who make different choices than they themselves would make.

  10. I love your list of things about you. Hope you don’t mind if I copy your idea for my blog this week! And your “advisor” needed some advice on when to keep the mouth shut.

  11. Thanks for sharing your story and I couldn’t agree with you more. The Watson speech has brought feminism into the mainstream arena and that can only be a good thing. Honest, open and inclusive discourse is the only way forward, and the key words need to be freedom and choice. Sadly, the British press have undermined her sentiments by doing what they do best – objectifying her – as you can see here:

    http://lovelanguageloveliterature.com/2014/09/24/emma-watson-and-the-f-word/

  12. As a 21-year-old male, I’ve seen quite a bit of vilifying of the feminist as well as hearing – mostly among females – a lot of the phrase, “I’m not a feminist, BUT I do think women should be equal to men”. The ideal of feminism is there, but with a distinct rejection of the word, like it’s a taboo to ‘brand’ oneself with it.

    However, while I was listening to Emma Watson’s brilliant UN speech and while I was reading this brilliant post, I knew I agreed with each and every point made.

    I found myself thinking, if a desire for gender equality is the definition of a feminist, I am a feminist.

    • “if a desire for gender equality is the definition of a feminist, I am a feminist.”

      That’s not what feminism is, though. Feminism means blaming the patriarchy for all of the problems in the world, while ignoring the problems that have been caused by women. Feminism means thinking of all men as being potential rapists/perverts/sexists, and ignoring all of the good men in the world. Feminism means thinking that all women are better than all men, even though there are plenty of horrible women and plenty of genuinely good men. None of that is the same thing as “gender equality.”

      • It’s exactly what feminism is – equality between genders. Please, please look up a definition of feminism before you blacken its name. You’re on a computer, it will take literally seconds. And good on you, James, welcome to the fold!

      • Feminism might be defined as “equality between genders” but that doesn’t mean that that’s what it is in practice.

      • Then it’s the practitioner who’s at fault – not the movement. There are people with bad intentions in every movement, every group, every type. It doesn’t mean the group as a whole is not working towards something good.

    • If feminism is all about equality for both men and women, then how come most feminists think that “the patriarchy” is the cause of most of the world’s problems, rather than admitting that some women are at fault as well? And how come most feminists would rather see men as being potential rapists/perverts/sexists than actually own up to the fact that there are plenty of kind, loving men in the world? And how come most feminists think that men’s problems simply matter less than women’s problems do, and thus, don’t speak up for men who have been raped by women, men who were falsely accused of rape by women, and men who weren’t granted custody of their kids in a divorce case? Seriously, feminism is doing nearly nothing to help men and plenty to hurt them. So why pretend otherwise?

      • 15.5 Million girls will be married as children… and most of them are between 9 and 12 years of age…by kind, loving men of the world. 21st Century feminism is about global politics, human rights and waking-up Wall Street.

      • What about all of the boys who will be forced to marry a girl they hardly know in an arranged marriage, due to Hindu beliefs? Seriously, men need help, too, so why not help them?

      • “The Patriarchy” can be considered the root of many of the worlds problems. How many women run countries in today’s world? Not many. How many cabinets/parliaments/insert ruling bodies here are populated with more than 50% of women? So it can be easy for some to blame “The Patriarchy”. Men are ruling the world.

        I agree that some of your points are valid, but they are only a slice. And IMHO, it is the most glaring example of the wrong headed things done by men against women. And women against men. Men/Men and Women/Women.

        If we try to find a way to find a balance between men and women, in ALL things, then those slices will work themselves out. Yes I know, I am an incurable optimist. And I also realize this won’t happen overnight. Many male assaulters of women were abused. Or they saw their mom’s being abused and learned this behavior to be ok. We need to help women know that breeding is not the end all be all of their existence, like Lisa pointed out earlier. Women need to have resources to help them. And men need to be punished more deeply for assaulting women. One way is to let everyone out that was busted for a joint and had a mandatory 5 yr sentence out so we could make room for rapists and the like on both sides.

        I was raised to respect women. I guess that makes me a feminist. Many feminists get called Feminazi’s by fat, drug addicted radio hosts because they threaten the status quo. Does having passion for a cause that affects you deeply deserve this kind of verbal abuse? I guess i was just raised better than that.

      • What makes you think that women would do any better of a job at running a country than men would? Feminism seems to assume that all women are superior to men, which is patently false. There are just as many corrupt, hate-filled women out there as there are corrupt, hate-filled men.

        And if you want to find a balance between men and women in all things, then you should be an egalitarian, rather than a feminist. After all, the large majority of feminists focus mostly on women’s issues, and ignore men’s issues. So why call yourself a feminist at all, then? Tell me, what has feminism done to help solve the issue of women who rape men, or of women who falsely accuse men of rape? Face it, feminism is all about female superiority, and I’m tired of that.

      • I’m going to answer your questions one by one so this might go long.

        Firstly: the patriarchy IS the cause of a LOT of the world’s problems. Not all, but a lot. But the patriarchy does not stand for all men, and men suffer for the problems it creates, as well. When we badmouth the patriarchy, we are not badmouthing men in general – just the ones who support it. And that goes for everyone. Men and women and everyone else can all be part of the systems that the patriarchy creates – and they’re all at fault.

        Secondly, I don’t think most feminists DO see men as rapists and perverts and sexists. I know I don’t. But the fact is that while not all men are, enough are that almost every woman has to deal with those men fairly frequently – so most women are understandably cautious. Besides, the fact that not all men are rapists doesn’t mean we all don’t need to start asking questions about why so many are, and about how we treat victims, and about why a society is so quick to doubt a rape victim when s/he reports it.

        The same goes for your third question – why do feminists think that men’s problems aren’t as serious. Again – I don’t think they do. Do you have any evidence of this? Every one of the points you raise is actively discussed by most feminists. That kind of gender bias is specifically what feminism aims to counter. Emma Watson actually mentions a couple of those things in her speech.

        I do have one issue with your example of men who are raped. Not explicitly addressing male rape in discussions about rape is not to disregard it – the rape or abuse of a man is every bit as serious as the rape or abuse of a woman. However, statistically, rape and abuse of women outweighs that of men to a truly astonishing degree. For that reason, and the reason that often the motives and emotional fallout of male rape are very different to those of female rape, most people don’t feel that adding ‘oh and men too’ to the end of every discussion is necessary, or helpful.

        I would hope that most men are comfortable enough to allow women’s issues to be discussed every now and again, without becoming upset that it’s not being made all about them. Because honestly, we’ve come on leaps and bounds as far as equality goes – certainly for white women – but we still have a way to go, and getting upset that feminists don’t talk nicely or often enough about men is a little embarrassing.

      • So you’re saying that men (as in “the patriarchy”) are at fault for most of the world’s problems? And can I assume that you don’t think that women are at fault for any of the world’s problems? If so, then how is that anything less than sheer sexism? Seriously, women can do wrong, no matter how much feminists try to tell you otherwise. Stop blindly believing that women are always benevolent and kind, and learn to accept that many men have been hurt immensely by women.

        And most of the feminists on Twitter and Tumblr see men as rapists and perverts and sexists. For proof of this, go to reddit.com/r/TumblrInAction. That site has specific examples of times when feminists on Tumblr (and various other sites) have been overtly hateful to men. So why lie and pretend that most feminists aren’t sexist and/or misandristic?

        And if feminists think that men’s problems are as serious as women’s problems are, then how come they’re doing nothing to solve those problems? How come they only focus on solving women’s problems, while at the same time pretending to claim that men and women are equal? Just because a feminist says that they think that men and women are equal doesn’t mean that their actions show that, you know. And, as the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words.

        Seriously, can you name even one feminist campaign that has been started to try to help men who have been raped, or to help men who were falsely accused of rape by women? Or what about a feminist campaign to stop men from being forced to pay child support? Seriously, most feminists these days focus on reproductive rights, which is a purely female problem. They don’t care at all about men’s problems. Again, you can look at the posts on TumblrInAction as proof of that.

      • Harriet, you mention the ‘patriarchy’, but the dictionary definition of ‘patriarchy’ does not have much to do with how feminists use the word. So why only quote the dictionary when it’s convenient for you?

        Second, feminism focuses on one sex while blanking out and silencing the other half of humanity that suffer just as much, if not more, from their traditional roles. THAT is sexism.

        If feminism wants to call ‘misogyny’ more than “I hate women” but use ‘misogyny’ to refer to double standards and silencing of women, then you will have to use ‘misandry’ to mean more than “I hate men”.

        Thus, it’s misandry when men are silenced from gender discussions, it’s misandry when feminism claims to be the only movement needed for gender equality.

      • “Most” feminists is a very broad generalization. Most feminists do not believe or promote those negative ideas that you claim. The very small minority has given the majority a bad rap.

      • Noor, men don’t suffer as much as women because of their gender. Give me a single piece of evidence. And don’t throw ‘men can’t cry at movies’ at me. Someone is sexually assaulted every two minutes in America. 91% of the victims are female. It does not compare. Forced marriage. Female circumcision. Wage rates. Objectification. That’s the TIP of the iceberg. Seriously. I’m open to being proved wrong. Give it a go.

  13. I do not like the word feminist! I am a woman who believes in equality! The moment you label this a feminism if becomes the opposite to my beliefs! All people should be treated equLity, regardless of race, sex or religion. It is human nature to over complicate issues. = = = or in English, equal, equals equal – no other equation is necessary!

  14. I agree with everything you9and Emma) said. I’m a stepfather, and I want my stepdaughter to have every opportunity men have. She is brilliant, but has already run into the walls the world seems to build for women. She’s a junior in college and has been told she should think twice about going for a masters degree because it would just give her future husband more debt to deal with. Who’s says stuff like that?

  15. Thanks Lisa- I am 55, work with young women who are clueless on Feminism, have no idea the sacrifices that were made for the priviledges they enjoy..very well said, thank you.

  16. WOW..this is something commendable. glad that someone took courage to write about it and also,expressed it so well.
    I just loved it – ‘Because no one should be allowed to dictate what a “real woman” does or does not do.’

    yes, i’m a feminist!

  17. Feminism is inherently sexist. You only focus on women there, even though there are dozens of fields in which men suffer disproportionately due to their gender.

    I linked in an earlier comment that I think got flagged for moderation, to a long list of sources on the many-times-over debunked ‘wage gap’. To put it briefly, women are not paid less than men for the same job. The gap disappears completely when you factor in number of work hours, job fields, etc. and this is something feminists have admitted too. Single childless women actually outearn similar men by 8%.

    Men make up 93% of deaths in the workplace, about all wartime deaths, and the male suicide rate is several times more than that of women, all over the world, along with other much more serious disparities. That is part of why I am against feminism. They talk about the most trivial things about women, while men are suffering at disproportionate rates because men are seen as the disposable sex.

    Until I see feminists campaigning for women to make up half of all war casualties or scholarships for more women as manual hard laborers in the coal mines, I’m going to believe equality is just a cover.

    Lisa, the problem with defining “those other” feminists as sexist, is that you’ve literally defined about every feminist leader out of feminism throughout history. Not just Dworkin, but Jessica Valenti does not qualify as feminist either by those standards. Most every feminist who writes textbooks, teaches gender studies classes, creates rape statistics of women to be hyperinflated and male rape victims to be ignored, pushes for anti-male laws, etc. is “not a true feminist” by your standards either.

    Even then, just like misogyny, misandry or anti-male sexism does not have to be women going “I hate men”. It can also include ignoring or dismissing the struggles of the other half of the human population, while treating the 1% of men at the top as representative of all men.

    I’m a fan of your blog, except for this. I hope what I said makes sense, and thank you for reading.

  18. I agree totally!!! The whole point of women’s rights was that we have the right to CHOOSE. I’m not a mom, and I can’t tell you how many times people have rudely asked, “Why don’t you have kids?” They don’t know my story–and I really don’t have a good answer, but this article empowers me to say, “Because I chose a different path.” It’s my path and, yes, it totally differs from the norm. I think being a mom is one of the most amazing things a woman will ever do and it’s HARD work. Women need to support and appreciate each other’s decisions and not say that one way is better than another. We each have the freedom to choose our own path, whatever that path is.

  19. Very well put. I’ve always been bothered by the way a lot of words become so toxic we can’t even have honest discussions about them. Being a man who will proudly identify as a feminist, an ally, and an advocate for equality in all facets of life, it’s always nice to have one more person bravely accept feminism, and clearly and distinctly express what that means. Emma Watson’s speech was beautiful, as were your own words. I’d love to see words like feminist lose their negative stigma. Again, great post.

  20. Why not just call yourself a “freethinker”? That way you don’t get caught up in all the gender competition.

    freethinker: a person who forms his or her own opinions about important subjects (such as religion and politics) instead of accepting what other people say

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/freethinker

    If you don’t have children, the human race will die, by the way.

    I can’t cry at movies. It’s not a choice I’ve ever made. I’m just not that emotional. It’s my male biology, I think.

    I’m confused about how to treat a girl on a date now. Feminism has made me confused about whether to be chivalrous or not (or whether the girl might take it as an insult). Some girls like it when a guy takes charge and holds her hand and things like that, you know.

    • Saw this on tumblr. Aimed at women saying the same thing as you – applies to you also:

      Person: I’m a woman and I don’t need feminism

      What she’s actually saying:

      My life is perfectly okay and I don’t really care what other women go through
      I think feminists are just whiny and can’t take jokes that perpetuate harmful stereotypes
      I believe that people are just obsessed with political correctness
      I am blind willfully ignorant to the fact that there are still problems faced by women
      I have forgotten that feminism gave women rights such as the right to vote
      I have no idea that feminism is an egalitarian movement that fights for everyone’s rights regardless of sex, gender, sexuality, race, religion, nationality, and ethnicity but mostly focuses on women’s rights.
      I am more concerned about semantics rather than human rights
      I can’t distinguish between real feminists and shitty people who call themselves feminists
      I still believe in the false notion that feminism is about hating men
      I actually don’t understand what feminism is

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