Window Dressing A Dark Reality: Why I won’t be signing on to “HeForShe” anytime soon



“I AM INVITING YOU to step forward, to be seen to speak up, to be the ‘he’ for ‘she’. And to ask yourself if not me, who? If not now, when?” That was the challenge thrown down to men and boys around the world by the British actor, Emma Watson, at the launch of the HeForShe movement in New York City last year. The brainchild of UN Women, the UN organisation dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women, HeForShe openly solicits the support of men in the struggle for gender equality – tacitly acknowledging the success of patriarchal resistance to the further extension of women’s rights internationally.

Watson spoke movingly  of her own conversion to feminism and of the many “inadvertent feminists” who had made it seem natural for her to be treated as an equal. But she also made reference to the declining influence of feminism as a mobilising ideology .

“I was appointed six months ago and the more I have spoken about feminism the more I have realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop.”

Watson’s speech thus resurrected the line of argument which some of the early advocates of what came to be known as “Second Wave Feminism” deployed in their quest for male allies.

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“We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see that that they are and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence … Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong. It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum not as two opposing sets of ideals.”

Subsuming the struggle for women’s rights in a grander battle for the freedom of both sexes did not, however, strike many 1970s feminists as a particularly effective strategy for securing their own liberation. Their personal experiences as political activists told them that any movement for gender equality in which men participated as full and equal partners would inevitably end up being dominated by men, and reflect a masculine view of the world. Women found their own voices much more readily in groups with a “Women Only” membership rule.

This herstory is well known to the New Zealand spokeswoman for HeForShe, Sue Kedgely. As one of the Founding Mothers of Second Wave Feminism in New Zealand, she is well aware of the movement’s organisational evolution. All the more surprising, then, that she should be the one inviting all good Kiwi blokes to don their shining armour and ride to the rescue of the world’s damsels.

Never backward in coming forward, Kedgely kicked off the New Zealand HeForShe effort, launched in Wellington on Friday (27/11/15) afternoon, by signing up the realm’s leading knight – and Governor-General – Sir Jerry Mateparae. Other high-profile fellas signing on to this noble, global quest to secure gender equality by 2030 include broadcasters Wallace Chapman and Jack Tane; economist and philanthropist, Gareth Morgan; and comedians Te Radar and Jeremy Ellwood.

If you’re a bloke and also feel moved to support this new cause of “Popular Feminism”, then simply pay a visit to the website and sign on.

Just be aware, though, that not every feminist shares Emma Watson’s views. Responding to her New York speech, feminist columnist, Clementine Ford, wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald of 27 September 2014:

“It’s true that a person like Watson is very well placed to inspire people who may still be labouring under the weight of stereotypes regarding feminism, and that is undoubtedly cause for celebration. I applaud her for being brave enough to speak out when so many others haven’t. But feminists have been battling these stereotypes for decades and we will almost certainly be battling them for years to come because the unfortunate truth is that gender inequality is about power – who has it, and who wants to retain it. No amount of window dressing (for that is surely what the HeForShe campaign amounts to, given its entire breadth seems to be asking men to click a button and download a twibbon) is going to change the systemic global oppression that results in women’s degradation, subjugation and death in persistently high numbers. And it isn’t, as some have suggested, ‘tearing another woman down’ to want to discuss that reality.”

To which, as a “He”, I am happy to stand and say to that particular “She”:

“Right-on Sister!”


  1. Alas we live in a world where talking about it and getting celebrities to talk about it has become a substitute for any real action …. This is not just feminism I’m talking about either.

    One example here, in Christchurch, where many people’s mental health is at breaking point the solution seems to be to fund public relations schemes about ” All right”


    and so on. This, rather than funding actual mental health providers to get out there and do something to support people in need or to provide needy people with shelter etc.

    I guess it’s a lot easier to hire a public relations expert and a lot more sexy to have it (if possible) headed by a movie star of some description than have lots of boring old health workers going around and making sure people are ‘All right’ .

    Now it seems feminism too can be transmuted into a public relations scheme and so it too will be all right.

    • I do hope you jest.
      Unless of course you believe that where inequality exists, it’s the sole responsibility of the party with the least rights to see that amends are made.
      Yep that’s fair.

      • You’re making the assumption that inequality DOES exist.

        I cannot stand all of the constant, repetitive and most of all – misleading – claptrap about the feminist wage gap (for example).

        It’s a myth perpetuated by statistically-illiterate women’s groups who manipulate data in order to further their own agenda.

        There is a plethora of research, reports and article published by serious academics, journalists, economists, government organisations and even feminist groups, all of which agree that when all of the variables are taken into account, the gender wage gaps narrows to the point of vanishing.

        I urge anyone who believes that the gender wage gap really is 14% to read the below article in order to see just how badly certain organisations (via the media) distort and manipulate the figures.

        For example, “the AAUW report compares the pay of male lawyers with that of female librarians; of male professional athletes with that of female communications assistants” by lumping all of these occupations together into one broad group.

        Or how about, “researchers count “social science” as one college major and report that, among such majors, women earned only 83 percent of what men earned. That may sound unfair… until you consider that “social science” includes both economics and sociology majors. Economics majors (66 percent male) have a median income of $70,000; for sociology majors (68 percent female) it is $40,000″.

        Nobody is stopping women from majoring in economics!

        It’s lies, it’s deceptive, it’s misleading… and the media need to stop reporting these figures as being accurate. Stop believing groups like the YWCA and start investigating the numbers.

        How much research do you think the likes of Te Radar and Jeremy Elwood have done in regards this matter? Likely zero. What is more likely is that they simply believe the 14% figure trotted out by the likes of the YWCA and regurgitated without question or explanation in the media.

        Here’s just one:

  2. Strangely I rarely hear women (or men for that matter) calling out for gender equality in sports (i.e. no men’s and women’s events/teams), longevity (women live considerably longer than men, why?), or paid paternity leave. [Ducks].

    • Which is why I find it so ridiculous when I hear feminists say that all gender equality issues can be discussed under feminist. Its has its blinds spots.

    • Or paying more for car insurance (stats may show that men may crash more – because they drive more – but it’s still discrimination. You wouldn’t get away with charging certain ethnicities or religions higher premiums).

      Or women’s-only gyms (but they moan at male-only clubs)

      Or the fact that bars/bouncers sometimes deny males entry simply for being male (or allow hen’s nights but not stag dos).

      As for paid paternity leave; my wife got around 20 weeks. 6-8 weeks at full pay from her employer, and the rest at a ‘discounted’ rate (around $430/week) courtesy of the government.

      Do you know how much I got? 10 days. Unpaid.

      So at day 14, I’m back working full-time, working until midnight, with a 14-day-old baby at home, and getting very little sleep.

      I’m not saying women have it easy… but neither do men.

  3. Just be decent, thoughtful, aware men in your daily life and hope for the best… because most online campaigning leads to absolutely nothing.

    Twitter “awareness” is all this is. Followed, no doubt, by anyone with a semi-public profile exchanging micro-aggressions, sarcasm and then a round of twitter *high-fives* from followers.

    Non of this changes a damn thing for women in f*cked up situations.

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