Speaking up for Gender Equality: “If not me, who? If not now, when?”

All that is needed for the forces of evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing. –Edmund Burke (1729-1797)

Image courtesy of www.imaginepeace.com

Image courtesy of http://www.imaginepeace.com

I turn 35 in nine days and, as is customary for this time of year, I take some heart notes on where I am and, more importantly, who I am.  I’d like to say that I have it together.  That I know every scar and tear in my soul’s heart, but that would be a lie.  And I don’t lie.  Not anymore.

This past year my thoughts have drifted over the length of who I am.  I have chosen my emotional metric to be strides taken, words spoken and moments of self shared.  I have looked beyond my shell to the soft center of my personhood.  And there…I have found pearls.  Among them sits this:

I am a woman.

And blessed to be so.

I recently watched a speech given by UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, Emma Watson, for a campaign called HeForShe.  It is a global movement calling for gender equality.  It is also a formal invite to men to take part in this discussion and to be ambassadors of change within their hearts and homes, cities and countries.

I want men to take up this mantle, so that their daughters, sisters and mothers can be free from prejudice.  But also so that their sons can have permission to be vulnerable and human too, reclaim those parts of themselves they abandoned, and in doing so, be a more true and complete version of themselves. 

-Emma Watson

While many have signed in soul ink since the campaign launched, others have sought to reeducate the masses through an already prevalent and prejudicial gender narrative.  There were character attacks on Ms. Watson and threats made to her person.  As well as renewed enthusiasm toward the angry bitch theory that has plagued the feminist community since its conception.

I can tell you that I have never identified as a feminist.  I have never liked the word and have always found it laced with exclusivity instead of dripping with needed inclusivity.  Because here is the issue:  if inequality is the problem, women and men must work together to solve it.  It is not enough for me to speak and write about the gender imbalance to other women, men must be a part of the dialogue, as well.

I realize that I am privileged in ways I never understood before.  I am a straight, white, middle-class, Christian, cisgender female living in a country where I have rights, worth and power.  I am given access to platforms because it is often determined I deserve them.  And I am given access to locations because it is often assumed I belong there.

I am one of the lucky ones.  I See that.  I was not deemed unworthy by my parents when I was born female.  I was not subject to the horrors of female genital mutilation or forced to marry when I was still a child.  I was not sold into slavery, denied access to education or told I would go only so far in life because of my womanhood.

I have been born to privilege.

Many have not.

I have always believed in equality, humanity and crossing divides, but I have not always spoken up.  I was afraid:  afraid of being cataloged, criticized and critiqued.  But here’s what happens when you’re nine days from 35:  you realize that saying nothing is synonymous with saying that it’s okay, that it isn’t an issue, and that it isn’t worth the dialogue.

Having this platform, for me, is a privilege, wrapped in silver, dipped in gold and rolled in diamonds.  And with privilege comes responsibility.  So this is me taking mine:

I am an “inadvertent feminist”.

I am not a “man-hater”.  I am not “aggressive”.  I am not “power-hungry”.  And I am not “a bitch with an agenda”.   I am, however, a bit bossy, a bit enraged, and wholly invested in this campaign for human rights.

I suppose if I were a child of the 50’s I would have been lying in front of tankers and placing daisies in gun barrels.  But I’m not a child of the 50’s.  I was born in 1979 and I am writing this in 2014.  In that span of time, much has changed.  And, sadly, much has not.

In Ms. Watson’s speech she declared, “It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum, instead of two sets of opposing ideals”.  She closed with the following thoughts and I will close with them as well:

If you believe in equality, you may be one of those inadvertent feminists I spoke of earlier, and for this I applaud you.  We are struggling for a uniting word, but the good news is, we have a uniting movement.  It is called HeForShe.  I’m inviting you to step forward, to be Seen and to ask yourself, If not me, who?  If not now, when?

I realize this post is a tiny pebble tossed into a very deep well.  For more depth and further information on HeForShe and the campaign for gender equality click here.

And please, watch Ms. Watson’s speech in its entirety below.

One last thing: this song was too perfect not to post.  Enjoy!!