HeForShe is more than just a gender equality campaign by UN Women. Now, the term holds a meaning in and of itself that’s also representative of the campaign’s larger message. According to a recent UN Women press release sent to Bustle, HeForShe has become a synonym for male feminist. As evidence, there’s even an Urban Dictionary definition to boot. Elizabeth Nyamayaro, head of the campaign, said in the release:
That HeForShe has so easily become part of pop culture vernacular—and synonymous with the male feminist—is proof of this. Each new HeForShe moves us closer toward our goals and empowers still more men to unite with women for this critical cause.
The fact that there’s now a term for male feminists is a big deal. That means that more men are hopping on board to push for gender equality and are espousing feminist ideas to the extent that the group garners a name of its own. At this point, HeForShe reports that more than 400,000 men worldwide have joined the cause and pledged their support. The movement has even gotten endorsements from celebrities and political figures, including everyone from Barack Obama to Ashton Kutcher to former NFL quarterback Donald McPherson.
The whole idea behind HeForShe — and, moreover, the idea of the male feminist — is that the gender equality ideals championed by feminism can only be achieved if both genders partake in the cause. When UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson announced the movement back in 2014, she asked the question:
How can we affect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation?
Oftentimes, feminism gets a bad rap because some think that the movement, in fighting against sexism for women, ends up pushing that sexism and gender stereotyping back onto men by bashing men and blaming them for the inequality between the sexes. But in Watson’s speech, she suggested that she wanted to end the perception of feminism that “fighting for women’s rights [is] synonymous with manhating.” Feminism isn’t about women overtaking the power currently held by men; it’s about finding a better balance so both sexes can more effectively and equally coexist, and including women and men in a group with the same mission works toward exactly that.
It's that fact of one group working toward the same mission that makes it seem like though male feminists now have a name for themselves — HeForShe — it also underlines the gap that still exists. When feminism is about one group both fighting for the same cause, does having a separate name for a male feminist in fact do the opposite? If male feminists need a different name than female feminists, then it shows that the fight isn’t being taken on equally, or in the same manner. Feminism should be about creating a balance between the genders, not invoking further separation.
If men and women are fighting for the same goal in the same group, then there shouldn't be a need to differentiate between the gender of those in the fight. Why can’t we all just be called feminists? Hopefully with the progress of more and more men joining the movement, eventually we'll move so far ahead that everyone is happy to call themselves feminist.
Images: Getty Images (2); Urban Dictionary (1)