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Feminism 2014

emma_watson.jpgWhen 24 year old Emma Watson spoke to the UN about HeforShe, a call to men and boys to support equal rights for women and girls, she called herself a feminist. Watson is goodwill ambassador for this new UN initiative. Feminist is an uncommon label for a young woman to adopt. Many women avoid calling themselves feminists. And Watson is not new to feminism. She was acutely aware of gender discrimination as a child and became a feminist when she was 14.

Young women view gender much differently from those of us who came of age during the feminist movement of the sixties and seventies. At that time, the evidence of discrimination against women was so prevalent that it required a movement to fight for gender equality. Over the years through misinterpretation and mis-characterization, feminism grew to carry negative connotations for many.

Instead of avoiding the word, Watson suggests now is a time when we could choose to see feminism as a word that unites us in acting on the continued and unacceptable discrimination against women. Even if a person rejects the word feminism, he likely supports the tenants of gender equity. And all can be united by the aspirational goals of the feminist movement. Women who reject the label but believe that women deserve equal opportunity are likely, despite their resistance, inadvertent feminists.

Watson was commended by some as just what feminism needs and her speech was widely complimented. And many men are accepting the challenge. As expected, however, those who specialize in mean and cruel commentary ridiculed and condemned. Watson was also subject to thoughtful commentary that cautions against making her the icon of modern feminism.

And that’s true. Watson’s exploration of feminism will and should evolve and change over time. And it may be that she could have said some things better or differently. But in the twelve minutes she spoke, she lifted feminism onto the world stage.

Watson was not the only person to shine a spotlight on feminism. It even hit the runways of Chanel’s fashion show this week which ended with a mock protest. As a company, Chanel has not been identified as feminist in orientation but one supporter claims it acts on a trend toward seeing feminism in a positive way. As such this activity contributes to the renewed focus on the importance of feminism in advocacy.

As an agency that has been providing services for thirty-three years from a feminist perspective, CWAV Society welcomes Emma’s challenge and hopes men and women of all ages will join us in adopting the ambition of feminism even if the label itself is avoided. We work from the aspirational goals of gender equity and a world free from gender based violence.

Our agency has kept the word feminist in our mission statement when some have stopped using the word. CWAV does revisit its mission statement occasionally to assess whether it adequately represents what we do. We live the best of feminism as an ambition.

That said, sometimes we get the feedback that our name and our describing our organization from a feminist perspective creates barriers or carries a stigma. That’s certainly not what we want and so we will continue to carry on a conversation about how to ensure our organization is always part of the solution and that it unites us in finding strategies that will deliver on the promise of gender equity and creating safety for women and children.


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