Acton Institute Powerblog

HeForShe: When Are We Going To Get Honest About Gender Issues?

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Emma Watson, the lovely British actress best known for her role as Hermione in the Harry Potter movies, is now a Goodwill ambassador for the United Nations. The program she is touting is called HeForShe (yes, I know that sounds like a support group for transgendered folk, but that’s beside the point.) It is, according to the website, a “solidarity movement for gender equality.” Basically, they want men (the “He”) to start supporting women’s (the “She”) equality.

There are certainly many places in the world where women face incredible challenges. Far too many women and girls lack basic access to voting, education, the free ability to travel on their own and to own property. These injustices clearly need to be addressed.

Today marks the 34th anniversary of China’s horrific one-child policy. It is hard to think of any other single policy that has claimed the lives of so many women, both born and unborn, and affected a nation in such a detrimental way. According to Women’s Rights Without Frontiers the Chinese government:

The One Child Policy causes more violence against women and girls than any other official policy on earth.

The One Child Policy is China’s war on women.   Any discussion of women’s rights, or human rights, would be a charade if forced abortion in China is not front and center.

The situation for girls in India is similar. On average, one girl is aborted there every minute, simply because she is female. Infanticide is regularly practiced in India as well, and girls under the age of 5 have a 75% higher mortality rate than boys.

Poor women in places such as India and Thailand are regularly used as surrogates for wealthy people. These women, impoverished and often illiterate, are paid for the rental of their womb for 9 months. The threat to the physical, mental and spiritual health of these women is put at a far-lower premium than the desire of a wealthy couple for a child.

Yet Watson’s speech on Saturday, September 20 for the HeForShe campaign did not touch on any of these issues that literally affect millions of women. Instead, she said,

It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum, instead of two sets of opposing ideals. If we stop defining each other by what we are not, and start defining ourselves by who we are, we can all be freer, and this is what HeForShe is about. It’s about freedom.

The HeForShe campaign is not really about women’s equality. It is about further advancing the idea that gender is fluid, un-related to biology, and that we can define it as we wish. It is not truly about helping women – all women, born and unborn, poor, illiterate, those in the developing world – gain equality. It’s simply another part of an agenda that seeks to wipe away the biological facts of male and female.

In 1995, St. John Paul II wrote his Letter to Women. He understood that many women in our world face terrible trials, but that “erasing” femininity would disastrous.

I am convinced that the secret of making speedy progress in achieving full respect for women and their identity involves more than simply the condemnation of discrimination and injustices, necessary though this may be. Such respect must first and foremost be won through an effective and intelligent campaign for the promotion of women, concentrating on all areas of women’s life and beginning with a universal recognition of the dignity of women. Our ability to recognize this dignity, in spite of historical conditioning, comes from the use of reason itself, which is able to understand the law of God written in the heart of every human being. More than anything else, the word of God enables us to grasp clearly the ultimate anthropological basis of the dignity of women, making it evident as a part of God’s plan for humanity.

The HeForShe campaign fails to address the dignity of all women. This will not be accomplished by hashtag campaigns, signing an online petitions, or any U.N. program that fails to take into account the needs of all females, and fails to tackle the horror of forced abortions, gendercide and the use of women as “breeders” in the surrogacy industry.

Elise Hilton Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.