This is going to turn into a very long post, I can feel it.
So yeah, ok. I can see the point being made here. I doubt anyone would argue that child labour and being called bossy are in any way comparable.
I can also see there is a wider point being made about HeforShe and the fact that it is focused on helping women, and on asking men to help women, when there are terrible situations for men and boys across the globe that are being ignored. Fair point.
I also did feel at this point in the speech that Emma Watson would never have thought of adding this had the ‘Ban Bossy’ campaign not existed. I know that sounds very cynical, it was just a thought I had. It has probably not occurred to her that maybe she was called bossy because she was being bossy - maybe the boys who wanted to take charge were not doing it in a domineering manner? Who knows, none of us were there.. it may indeed have stemmed from sexism for all I know. There is a difference between stopping someone from taking charge of a situation because of their gender and checking problematic behaviour - a point Ban Bossy completely missed, and my main problem with the campaign.
But the problem I have with this post is that it implies that we should not talk about these more minor incidences of sexism so long as greater ones exist. We therefore cannot talk about gender roles in any manner. Because being told to ‘man up’ is in no way comparable to child labour, is it? Being told you can’t achieve something because you’re ‘just a girl’ is in no way comparable to being sold into sex slavery, is it? So what - we can’t talk about these things at all now?
I suppose I had quite a traditional upbringing, or at least my parents slotted perfectly into their traditional roles. And yes, they did pass that on to myself and my brother. At mealtimes I was expected to help with the cooking, setting the table, washing up and so on. My brother was not expected or asked to do any of these things, or indeed any form of housework. This stung particularly hard at Christmas when I would help my mum in the kitchen while my brother was allowed to relax and play with his toys. Was it wrong of me to feel this way? Was it wrong of me to explain to my parents that I felt it was a double standard? Because somewhere in the world there are boys in a far far worse situation than me, was I wrong to feel this was unfair?
And if we look at some of the issues men and women face in western society then of course they stem from these ‘minor’ incidences. And I am sure the same is true across the globe. We continually question, for example, why suicide rates for men are so much higher than for women. But if we look at the root of that problem, is it not possible that it stems from exactly these sorts of things - being told from a young age that you should keep your emotions in check, that it is not ‘manly’ to cry, that your feelings don’t matter has a massive knock on effect in later life. We buy into the lies our parents and society tell us about how we ‘should’ act because of our gender. So if a man feels helpless then who will he turn to, who will he share his emotions with, whose shoulder will he cry on? Nobody. Because that is not the ‘manly’ thing to do. The importance of these ‘minor’ things should not be underestimated, please lets not start that.
And finally - do we not despise it when feminists use this very form of argument? Men’s issues do not matter because women have it ‘worse’ is something we often hear, and always decry. If we start thinking like that then we become the exact thing we hate about the feminist movement.
If we have a problem with this particular part of the speech (and my dislike of Ban Bossy is laid out above) then fair enough, point that out. But if any mention of gender stereotypes by feminists is going to be met with the cry of ‘boys/men in this country have this much larger problem and therefore that problem is insignificant’ then I do sort of feel like it becomes more about defeating feminism than about making the larger point. Yes - there is a point to be made in this post, as I mention. But surely we can make that point without basically mocking these ‘smaller’ issues. We spend a lot of effort trying to include the issues related to the male gender role in the gender equality conversation, and pointing out how detrimental they can be to men and boys. Is it not a touch hypocritical to then imply that girls and women shouldn’t talk about the ways in which they feel they have been treated differently because of their gender?
I won’t hassle with the whole ‘bossy is/isn’t a bad word’ thing because your greater point seems to be that mocking smaller issues isn’t right, and that ignoring misogyny is no different than ignoring misandry, and if that’s the case, I’m with you 100%.