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Emma Watson is right, Maisie Williams is wrong - we need to solve our 'first world problems' to help women everywhere.

22nd December 2014

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Maisie Williams, the Game of Thrones actress, criticised Emma Watson’s UN speech on feminism in a recent interview in the Guardian. She was quoted saying that Emma Watson’s speech was an example of “first world problems” and that “I know things aren’t perfect for women in the UK and in America, but there are women in the rest of the world who have it far worse.”

Emma WatsonWhilst this is true it is wrong to suggest that because the problems are worse elsewhere we should stop addressing issues in our own country. It is our job to lead the way in developing a greater level of equality.

In a re-framing of the ‘feminism’ debate away from recent misunderstandings the He for She organisation brings our attention to the fact in creating a better world feminism is an issue for all genders, across all countries. There is no ‘us’ and ‘them’.

If all people would work together across genders we could improve the living conditions in the poorest and richest countries in the world.

Feminism is from the beginning a struggle to reach equality, not a way in which women want to suppress men. If we reach equality all over the world, then men and women will not have to change in order to fit in the gender roles they were born into because of the society’s sometimes unspoken rules.

As expressed by Emma Watson in her UN speech, one worldwide issue for feminism is women’s (and men’s) right to have complete control over their own bodies. We are nowhere near having this for women.

In Cambodia, for example, families are selling their daughters’ virginities. Girls, as young as 12 years old, are being tested by a doctor to get a ‘certificate of virginity’, before being sold and raped.

An example in our own country is how women are treated by tabloid newspapers, in particular in the Sun’s Page 3. Throughout women are reduced to nothing more than sexual objects to sell newspapers.

In fighting this situation the breakdown of gender roles in our society is essential. For this to change men are equally as important as women in making change. The way genders are perceived and interact needs to change, and for that we all need to work together.

In the UK we have made progress that other nations haven’t, look at the No More Page 3 campaign and our changing views on homosexuality as examples, and us being in the privileged position to fight our ‘first world problems’ should be used as a positive for the rest of the world.

Because others have it worse we should not stop making positive change.

It is not only women who suffer due to these ideals, it is also men, who perhaps had to give up a passion or talent because it was considered feminine, and who were told not to express feelings of grief or loss. Across the world, women are starting to fight more and more against gender roles, but men are not. Even though, in a lot of countries, men are not allowed to stay at home with their children. Brent Kroeger is an American stay at home dad, who brought up the issues he had when sharing his lifestyle with society.

Society made him feel emasculated, even though taking care of a child should be just as much the father’s job, as it is the mother’s.

So NO, Maisie Williams, the He for She movement represents a potential solution to a global problem for men and women, not just a ‘first world problem’. 

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