Many of you may be familiar with the gender equality initiative known as HeForShe, largely down to its association with the wonderful Emma Watson (also Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women). HeForShe is a solidarity campaign that’s actually under the wing of UN Women and you may remember in 2014 when Watson took to the floor of a UN meeting to discuss feminism. “Why has the word become such an unpopular one?” she asked us.
Since then HeForShe has grown massively; despite falling short of their 2015 goal to engage one million men and boys, they have reached over a billion gender equality actions, and it goes up every few minutes. The site shows a recorded 1.3 billion conversations taking place on Twitter and Facebook, 833K commitments, and over 1.1K events that had been held to aid the cause (for future reference, these figures were correct as of 3 May 2016).
So why am I talking to you about HeForShe? Because I follow them on Facebook, and couldn’t be more amazed at the level of balance in their work, and their campaigning. This is to say that recently, HeForShe have been running two campaigns on social media.
The first being largely Twitter based, and asking users how they live #BeyondLabels. This has been a very comforting campaign running to support those who don’t work alongside the gender binary. The campaign has even been quite light-hearted in supporting men who declare their love for Mean Girls, the colour pink, and emotional movies – because why the hell shouldn’t they? The second of their campaigns however, is the one I’m trying to get you to pay attention to today.
Emma Watson has endeavoured to clarify that feminism is nothing to do with men-hating, and thank God. As explained before here on ‘Anthem’, feminism is equality of the sexes, not the promotion of one over the other. Equally, I’m sure a lot of you have seen videos and posts from women saying they are not a feminist because they support men. Again, real honest feminism supports both. Feminism wants to solve both sides of the problem. As a result, the recent campaign about what we share highlight the problems affecting both men and women, and just why we need to start dealing with them.
The campaign has looked at cyberbullying, body image and mental health with images like those seen embedded here. One of the biggest issues is that of mental health in links to high suicide rates in men. Something I’ve always been concerned about, these rates aren’t getting better, and it’s going to be a lot of work in fixing that. HeForShe has been busy sharing articles and posting about the worry surrounding men speaking out, expressing their emotions, and of course the inability to do so which has led to such high rates.
As it stands, 12 men a day are killing themselves in the UK. If this doesn’t make your stomach turn, I honestly don’t know what will. It’s horrible to think that subconscious gender socialisation has led to an entire gender feeling incapable of saying how they feel, struggling, battling with dark thoughts, and with a small number of them succumbing to those thoughts and ending their lives. To put it in perspective by gender, 3/4 of all UK suicides are men. You see what we’re saying here?
HeForShe have highlighted some pretty useful statistics. Most people are aware that numbers don’t mean people; not everyone comes forward, not everyone shares their truths. A lot of Facebook users have attempted to dispute these numbers by stating this, but realistically this means that their images are only more worrying, and more people of both sexes have been bullied online, are unhappy with their weight, or have struggles in the workplace that we don’t know about.
This campaign puts out some important, but slightly saddening data. As seen above, 1 in 2 girls, and 1 in 3 boys are unhappy with their weight. This is the kind of number that just makes me mad. No child, particularly one that young, should feel so conscious already. Of course, it sounds idealistic to say we should all just be happy little butterflies and love ourselves and others and then that would solve everything, especially when I’m a realist.
The point of this is not to feel sad about life. The point of this is to show that men and women, we’re not so different. When Watson took to the stage in 2014, she invited men toward feminism, because gender equality was their fight too. The #WhatWeShare campaign demonstrates this perfectly. Depression is not a woman’s problem, suicide is not a man’s problem. Mental health is our problem. The sooner we work together, the sooner the problem can be resolved, or at least helped.
What we share is more powerful than what divides us, and what we share can lead to a greater gender equality, to a better friendship between gender, and a better chance for everyone being limited by how they identify in life. HeForShe is a global initiative led and supported by a lot of smart men and women who are genuinely striving for equality, and in the mean time, for a better society. I highly suggest you get on board by following them on social media, or pledging your commitment online.
If you want to be part of the change there is nothing stopping you.
Words by Briony Brake
Images courtesy of HeForShe/UN Women
Statistics courtesy of Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM)