Every day I read about gender inequality. I don't intentionally do so but it would seem my eyes have trained themselves to find any word relating to this topic in a headline, in a blurb, on my twitter feed, wherever, and enlarge it. Words such as feminism, equality, human rights and women jump out at me. They become so large that it becomes impossible to focus on other articles. Only when I have read these stories will the words diminish and my eyes can start hunting the page for something else.
I would have said that my feminist streak was silent. Or rather, only made appearances occasionally for someone to be able to 'label' me a feminist. It is my eyes quietly scanning for those words and nobody else's after all. Although always tempted, I actively choose not to write about gender inequality each week and tend to keep posts relating to such topics via Facebook or Twitter at a minimum. Perhaps in Emma Watson's eyes, I am one of those "inadvertent feminists".
But it would appear that I am not as silent as I thought. Looking back on articles I have written over the past year, one doesn't have to read between the lines, so to speak, to decipher the recurrent themes of my articles: It is clear I am passionate about gender equality. By midday on Tuesday, I had received a total of four messages telling me to watch Emma Watson's UN Speech. I watched it on Monday. My silent feminist side is obviously not-so-silent.
I believe my inner feminist has always been within me. Far from lying dormant, it has been growing since I was child. I grew up in a house with four other females and one male. Only when I went to school and started learning of gender inequalities (the lack of education is argued to be the epitome and root of gender inequality) I came to realise how much I was in the minority, as too was my father.
With pride I would (and I still do) speak of my mother's profession as a fully qualified consultant paediatrician. She earned more than by father but never did this hinder their relationship or provide a reason for my father to behave any differently towards her, his three daughters or my grandmother. Was my father failing as a man as he was not the dominant breadwinner? Some may believe so. I was very lucky. I simply believed this dynamic was the norm.
And so, the more I learned, the more I came to realise the extent of gender imbalances that exist globally. I was a minority twofold: my household situation and as is common in the Western world, I was a girl and now a women who had received a full education, gaining an undergraduate degree.
However, it was thanks to my brilliant lecturer, Cathy McIlwaine who has encouraged me to voice my feminist streak this past year. She taught me something absolutely crucial and critical towards achieving true gender equality: that is the importance of men. This key factor is also why I listened so intently and truly praise Emma Watson's speech at a UN conference in New York this week. Finally the Western world is acknowledging men in a positive light. We really have hit the fourth wave of feminism.
The word 'feminism', as Ms Watson correctly states, has become "synonymous with man hating". Men are the perpetrators, the violent sex incapable of expressing any form of emotion. Since the third wave of feminism, women have been acknowledged as heterogeneous. There is not one woman but many. There is not one man but many. Why has it taken so long for us as a society to realise this?
Gender based assumptions have to stop. The pressure put on men across every continent to live up to this stereotypical man is dangerous and wrong. To quote Ms Watson: "[there is] a distorted sense of what constitutes as male success". One only has to look at the levels of domestic violence across Latin America to truly see the damage machismo-ism causes.
To all those feminists out there who are reluctant to this idea of including men in order to achieve gender equality: Why? "How can we make change in the world if only half of it is invited?"
Emma Watson is encouraging us all to speak out. For all of us to demand change. The new campaign she has launched, HeForShe comes at a crucial stage in gender development. We must no longer be silent. She has inspired me to write this article and no longer hold back my tongue.
And I hope she inspires many more.