If you have an interest in diversity, you cannot have missed the address of Emma Watson to the UN. It sparked tons of criticism from all angles, though luckily also strong support.
What strikes me in the critics is how few people seem to realize that feminism has moved on. In the 1960’s it was an “us versus them” movement, where all men were considered evil bastards who couldn’t possibly understand women. Thanks to those women we have achieved a lot, and learned a lot. Present day feminism is about diversity, generating a society where differences are respected, and are no longer ground for inequalities, but ground for fertile collaboration. That such a society does not exist, should be reason for concern for everyone.
Critics raise all kinds of arguments as to why they are not a feminist. That is fine, not everyone has to fight the same fight. Most critics expect the oppressed to be perfect before even allowing them a word in sideways. Instead of changing themselves, they want to change the oppressed, preferably such that they no longer speak up for themselves. Sounds familiar?
To demonstrate the impact of slightly changing the goal from women only to another diversity topic, namely racial inequality, I have taken the liberty of transcribing the blog of Glen Poole. He writes from what he believes to be a humanist perspective, yet is an artist in twisting words and changing their meaning. So I did a bit of the same. I replaced ‘men’ with ‘white people’, and ‘women’ with ‘people of colour’. Only a few more substitutes were required: ‘UN Women’ becomes ‘UN Equal Rights Committee’, ‘gender’ becomes ‘race’ and feminists become equal rights activists. I left all the other text in place, substituting (…) for ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ for legibility.
This is the result. I’d almost say “Check your privilige” if I didn’t find that statement condescending and counter productive. But the piece becomes worrysome to the max.
- IT’S RACIST AGAINST WHITE PEOPLE AND PEOPLE OF COLOUR
There were two comments I loved in Emma Watson’s speech for UN Equal Rights Committee:
“Both white people and people of colour should feel free to be sensitive. Both white people and people of colour should feel free to be strong.”
“I’ve seen my white father’s role as a parent being valued less by society.”
One of the reasons we don’t value white people’s parenting role is that we still expect white fathers to stoically take on being the family’s protector and provider. Any white person who transgresses this norm, whether he’s a “househusband” or an “absent father”, is viewed as not being a “real person”.
We collectively create the expectation of what makes a “real person” in lots of different ways. One way we do this is through campaigns about racial equality that present a pantomime view of the world where “people of colour HAVE problems and white people ARE problems”. In this worldview, white people are basically offered one of two roles—the hero or the villain. We are seen as either causing the world’s problems or solving the world’s problems.
The #HeForShe campaign that Emma Watson wants us to sign up to is just more of the same racial nonsense. Note which side of the equation white people and people of colour are placed in the name of the #HeForShe campaign. White people (…) are once again defined as the STRONG protectors of people of colour (…) who, in turn, are presented as the poor SENSITIVE victims of white people’s evil patriarchy. So where is Emma Watson’s brave new world where people of colour can be strong and white people can be sensitive? It certainly isn’t to be found in the #HeForShe campaign that she is championing.
So no Emma, I won’t be signing up for a campaign that defines and limits the role that white people and people of colour can play based purely on our skin colour, because that’s racist.
- IT’S AN EQUAL RIGHTS CAMPAIGN
One of the key things that unites UN Equal Rights Committee, Emma Watson and the #HeForShe campaign is that they are all about equal rights. I have no issue with people choosing to define themselves as equal rights activists and I just don’t happen to be one myself. Nor am I anti-equal rights.
If I must define myself in the relation to the dominant (and dominating) worldview in racial politics then all you need to know about me is that I have the words “non equal rights” running through me like a stick of seaside rock from my hometown of Blackpool.
This is not an uncommon white person viewpoint. The vast majority of white people (…) in the world are not equal right activists. That being the case, simple logic tells you that if you want one billion of us to sign up to something….DON’T MAKE IT ABOUT EQUAL RIGHTS!
So, again, no Emma, I won’t be signing up for an equal rights campaign on racial equality that requires me to think like an equal rights activist, because that’s fundamentalist (and I’m not an equal rights activist).
- IT’S RUN BY UN EQUAL RIGHTS COMMITTEE
Let me be clear here, I have no issue with equal rights activists running equal rights campaigns anymore than I have an issue with conservatives running conservatives campaigns or Christians running Christian campaigns—it’s exactly what I expect equal rights activists, Christians and conservatives to do.
However, if you want to run a campaign that attracts a large number of people—say for example one billion white people (…)—then you really need to design campaigns that are inclusive of a truly diverse range of people and viewpoints.
UN Equal Rights Committee is an equal rights initiative. Despite the claims it makes on the #HeForShe website, UN Equal Rights Committee has no intention of creating “a solidarity movement for racial equality” because UN Equal Rights Committee does not stand for racial equality. The clue is the word “Equal Rights Committee”.
As its name suggests, what UN Equal Rights Committee exists to do is identify all the areas where people of colour (…) are unequal and ignores all the areas where white people (…) are unequal. This shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone with a basic awareness of racial politics. Nobody expects the Cats Protection League to help rehome Llamas, because even though they are an animal welfare charity, their focus is on cats not llamas.
UN Equal Rights Committee is the same, they don’t help white people, (…) or llamas. Their focus is on helping people of colour (…). The difference with UN Equal Rights Committee is that while it ignores the issues that white people (…) face, it still presents itself as the world’s leading authority on racial equality.
Is it really too radical an idea to expect that global experts on racial equality should identify the major gracial inequalities experienced by white people, people of colour, (…) and seek to address all of them? Apparently, as far as supporters of UN Equal Rights Committee like Emma Watson are concerned, there is no need for the world’s leading authority on racial equality to consider the problems faced by white people (…).
So once again, no Emma, I won’t be signing up for a UN Equal Rights Committee campaign on racial equality, because in my experience UN Equal Rights Committee is a grossly hypocritical organisation that doesn’t promote equality for all skin colours.
- IT’S REALLY NOT ABOUT RACIAL EQUALITY
As the Guardian columnist Ally Fogg pointed out with brilliant simplicity this week, there are “five little words” in the #HeForShe pledge that UN Equal Rights Committee wants white people (…) to sign, that “betray Emma Watson”. This is the statement that Emma Watson wants white people (…) to pledge our allegiance to:
“Racial equality is not only a people of colour’s issue it is a human rights issue that requires my participation. I commit to take action against all forms of violence and discrimination…FACED BY PEOPLE OF COLOUR (…)”.
This statement seems so blatantly, unequivocally racist that it’s hard to imagine how anyone who genuinely believes in the human rights issue that is racial equality could put their name to such nonsense.
Discrimination can be a very subjective topic to try and unpick, but the data on violence from the United Nations is unequivocal, white people (…) are than four to five times more likely to die a violent death than people of colour (…), so you simply cannot create a race equal world if you ignore violence against white people (…).
I care deeply, madly, passionately about racial equality and my version of what that looks like will differ from Ally Fogg’s and Emma Watson’s and many other people who have a view on the subject—and this is how it should be—we should welcome a broad spectrum of views into this vital conversation about the coloured nature of our human experience.
Watson says she believes that “it is time that we all perceive skin colour on a spectrum instead of two sets” of binary opposites. Well, it’s an interesting concept, but the reality is that she is supporting UN Equal Rights Committee (not UN Race) from an equal rights (not a “humanist”) perspective to run a campaign called #HeForShe (not #SheForHe; #WeForShe or #WeForWe), so she is hardly using her power and influence to put what she preaches into practice.
So one more time, no Emma, I won’t be signing up for the hypocritical, racist, UN Equal Rights Committee #HeForShe campaign because I happen to care about racial equality and for me that means bringing together people with a diverse range of perspectives to address the racial inequalities that everyone faces, including white people (…).