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.


  • Kell Brigan

    HeForShe is about women being murdered in the Middle East for “ethical” reasons, murdered everywhere, raped everywhere, maimed everywhere, trafficked everywhere… And, it’s about women not being forced into a life of anonymous, invisible domestic service. When Acton starts worrying as much about the welfare of women who aren’t “stay at home moms,” maybe you’ll get it. Meanwhile, your hair-splitting while women die, languish, struggle for freedom is simply disgusting.

    • No, it’s not. Read the website. Those things are not mentioned. Read Emma Watson’s speech. Those things are not mentioned. And clearly, you’re not familiar with my writing here at Acton. Search our blog for “human trafficking” and we can talk.

      • Kell Brigan

        HeForShe is working to get men (especially young men) to support the UN’s actions on behalf of women. Such as: The only thing anyone could find objectionable on that page is perhaps some of the medical coverage that might include access to abortion or contraception. Neither, however, is the primary focus the works involved. And, I know some people object to the idea of gender existing on a continuum, but that does reflect reality. In every way except sperm donation and child birth, men and women operate at the level of populations as two OVERLAPPING circles on a Venn diagram. That’s just reality, folks.

        • What a sad view of the genders. Human beings are not Venn diagrams; we are unique creatures created in the image and likeness of God. The differences between men and women go far beyond sperm and child birth. A father parents differently than a mother. A woman relates to others differently than a man. We should be celebrating these amazing and unique characteristics rather than trying to mash them together and say, “See! Exactly the same!”

  • Lil

    “It’s simply another part of an agenda that seeks to wipe away the biological facts of male and female.”

    Thank you, someone actually said it and either way both men and women are technically free to break out of gender roles if they like, but believe it or not, a lot will still follow them. Not on purpose, but incidentally and the fact feminists call themselves trying to fix something that’s not broken won’t change a thing.

    Like when Emma said “women are being submissive because of male aggression” I laughed because I’m submissive and no male forced me to be submissive. Submissiveness is a choice and quite subliminally she was still blaming men and trying to hold them responsible. But if you ask me feminists should be held responsible for creating all this unnecessary chaos in the first world. I would literally like them to take their feminism to the third world instead.

    Also trust me Mrs. Hilton, not a lot of girls are falling for this HeforShe campaign along with some guys, however it is still something to still stay concern about. Also thank you for writing this great article. :)

    • LR

      You mean women are submissive because men are very feisty. It’s true that men force women to be submissive in order to feel manly.

      • sharon

        LR writes “…It’s true that men force women to be submissive in order to feel manly…”

        Your broad brush assertion that a man’s ability to “feel manly” depends on “forcing” women to be submissive is patently false and a non sequitor.

        I am a woman and an attorney who routinely interacts with men in the practice of law. I love the spirited interaction and have never been “forced” by any man to be submissive. Vive la difference.

        Radical feminism is anything but liberating…it’s a radical turn off.

        • LR

          I’ve been forced to be submissive by any male my parents set me up with, including the one I’m with now.

          • Lil

            Just because you went through it doesn’t mean it’s true for everyone else. However I’m sorry that happened to you and if you don’t like being submissive talk to your man about it and if he doesn’t listen, simply break up with him if you feel as if he’s not for you and look for a guy who’ll treat you the way you want to be treated. That plain and simple.

            Other than that, don’t use your experience to speak for every female. Because aa a girl I don’t like that. For example, the number one stereotype that annoys me is how people say “Black girls are not interested in white men. They want thugs.” This stereotype makes it seem as if it’s speaking for every black female.

            Well I’m a black girl and I like white guys. You see how harmful stereotypes and generalizing can be?

          • LR

            In Asian culture, girls are expected to be submissive and silent while the men speak all the time and nag them. It makes relationships and marriages work. When the male is dominant and the female is submissive. It also makes males feel better about themselves. My parents are Asian (but are half-White through my White great-grandparents) and they expect me to be feminine by being submissive and silent around males to make them feel more masculine.

          • Lil

            Then break away from their grasp! How hard is that?

            If you can’t then I apologize, but I don’t know what else to tell ya. But once again do not use your soap opera stories to represent every woman in the world. It’s degrading and I highly suggest if you do not like the way you are living then take a stand instead of playing the victim and generalizing people together. If you don’t take a stand then, yes, your life will continue this way. Then year after year you’ll keep asking yourself couldn’t you of took a stand?

            I stood up to a boy who told me I would look nice in his kitchen and ofcourse he backed off when he made my ugly side come out. And before you get the wrong impression, that one guy who was mean to me do not represent every man in this world.

      • Lil

        Do you have proof? Because force is when you are being made to do something you don’t want to do and as a submissive female no man has literally forced me to be submissive. I repeat submissiveness is a choice and I choose to be submissive because I experimented and liked it. That’s my choice and you or any other feminist don’t have the right to have a say in my life.

        I’m not here to live up to your status and the same for feminists. I’m here to live life the way I want to and if you don’t respect that then there’s nothing else to say here.

  • This is how socialists have always worked: they redefine commonly used words so that they win any argument by default. It’s the only way they can win and the strategy has worked well. They have redefined marriage and gender to mean whatever they want them to mean. Redefining terms has been the left’s strategy since they introduced socialism in the early 1800s. At first they had to redefine morality in order to define away the morality of property. Immorality masquerading as the new morality has always gone hand in hand with socialism.

  • LR

    All over the world, including America, female babies are aborted and girls under 5 have higher mortality rates compared to boys.

  • jeff_jos72

    What about women supporting men? This is so stupid! Of course men would support saving forcibly aborted babies whether male or female. This is just victims mentality propaganda. It’s not HeForShe, it’s Transgender!