Four reasons I won’t be one of the men signing Emma Watson’s #HeForShe pledge

This week Emma Watson, she of Harry Potter fame, made headlines by making a rousing speech on gender equality, as she called for one billion men and boys to sign up to UN Women’s #HeForShe campaign.

Glen Poole of insideMAN gives four reasons he won’t be taking the #HeForShe pledge.


There were two comments I loved in Emma Watson’s speech for UN Women:

“Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong.”

“I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent being valued less by society.”

One of the reasons we don’t value men’s parenting role is that we still expect fathers to stoically take on being the family’s protector and provider. Any man who transgresses this norm, whether he’s a “househusband” or an “absent father”, is viewed as not being a “real man”.

We collectively create the expectation of what makes a “real man” in lots of different ways. One way we do this is through campaigns about gender equality that present a pantomime view of the world where “women HAVE problems and men ARE problems”. In this worldview, men are basically offered one of two roles—the hero or the villain. We are seen as either causing the world’s problems or solving the world’s problems.

The #HeForShe campaign that Emma Watson wants us to sign up to is just more of the same sexist nonsense. Note which side of the equation men and women are placed in the name of the #HeForShe campaign. Men and boys are once again defined as the STRONG protectors of women and girls who, in turn, are presented as the poor SENSITIVE victims of men’s evil patriarchy. So where is Emma Watson’s brave new world where women can be strong and men can be sensitive? It certainly isn’t to be found in the #HeForShe campaign that she is championing.

So no Emma, I won’t be signing up for a campaign that defines and limits the role that men and women can play based purely on our gender, because that’s sexist.


One of the key things that unites UN Women, Emma Watson and the #HeForShe campaign is that they are all feminist. I have no issue with people choosing to define themselves as feminists and I just don’t happen to be one myself. Nor am I an anti-feminist.

If I must define myself in the relation to the dominant (and dominating) worldview in gender politics then all you need to know about me is that I have the words “non feminist” running through me like a stick of seaside rock from my hometown of Blackpool.

This is not an uncommon male viewpoint. The vast majority of men and boys in the world are not feminists. That being the case, simple logic tells you that if you want one billion of us to sign up to something….DON’T MAKE IT FEMINIST!

So, again, no Emma, I won’t be signing up for a feminist campaign on gender equality that requires me to think like a feminist, because that’s fundamentalist (and I’m not a feminist).


Let me be clear here, I have no issue with feminists running feminist campaigns anymore than I have an issue with conservatives running conservatives campaigns or Christians running Christian campaigns—it’s exactly what I expect feminists, Christians and conservatives to do.

However, if you want to run a campaign that attracts a large number of people—say for example one billion men and boys—then you really need to design campaigns that are inclusive of a truly diverse range of people and viewpoints.

UN Women is a feminist initiative. Despite the claims it makes on the #HeForShe website, UN Women has no intention of creating “a solidarity movement for gender equality” because UN Women does not stand for gender equality. The clue is the word “Women”.

As its name suggests, what UN Women exists to do is identify all the areas where women and girls are unequal and ignores all the areas where men and boys are unequal. This shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone with a basic awareness of gender politics. Nobody expects the Cats Protection League to help rehome Llamas, because even though they are an animal welfare charity, their focus is on cats not llamas.

UN Women is the same, they don’t help men, boys or llamas. Their focus is on helping women and girls. The difference with UN Women is that while it ignores the issues  that men and boys face, it still presents itself as the world’s leading authority on gender equality.

Is it really too radical an idea to expect that global experts on gender equality should identify the major gender inequalities experienced by men, women, girls and boys and seek to address all of them? Apparently, as far as supporters of UN Women like Emma Watson are concerned, there is no need for the world’s leading authority on gender equality to consider the problems faced by men and boys.

So once again, no Emma, I won’t be signing up for a UN Women campaign on gender equality, because in my experience UN Women is a grossly hypocritical organisation that doesn’t promote equality for all genders.


As the Guardian columnist Ally Fogg pointed out with brilliant simplicity this week, there are “five little words” in the #HeForShe pledge that UN Women wants men and boys to sign, that “betray Emma Watson”. This is the statement that Emma Watson wants men and boys to pledge our allegiance to:

“Gender equality is not only a women’s issue it is a human rights issue that requires my participation. I commit to take action against all forms of violence and discrimination…FACED BY WOMEN AND GIRLS”.
This statement seems so blatantly, unequivocally sexist that it’s hard to imagine how anyone who genuinely believes in the human rights issue that is gender equality could put their name to such nonsense.

Discrimination can be a very subjective topic to try and unpick, but the data on violence from the United Nations is unequivocal, men and boys are than four to five times more likely to die a violent death than women and girls, so you simply cannot create a gender equal world if you ignore violence against men and boys.

I care deeply, madly, passionately about gender equality and my version of what that looks like will differ from Ally Fogg’s and Emma Watson’s and many other people who have a view on the subject—and this is how it should be—we should welcome a broad spectrum of views into this vital conversation about the gendered nature of our human experience.

Watson says she believes that “it is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum instead of two sets” of binary opposites. Well, it’s an interesting concept, but the reality is that she is supporting UN Women (not UN Gender) from a feminist (not a “humanist”) perspective to run a campaign called #HeForShe (not #SheForHe; #WeForShe or #WeForWe), so she is hardly using her power and influence to put what she preaches into practice.

So one more time, no Emma, I won’t be signing up for the hypocritical, feminist, UN Women #HeForShe campaign because I happen to care about gender equality and for me that means bringing together people with a diverse range of perspectives to address the gender inequalities that everyone faces, including men and boys.

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