Emma Watson: HeForShe

By Kersley Fitzgerald

As well done and comprehensive as the Harry Potter movies were, they left out a large theme that stretched over several of the books. When Hermione Granger met Dobbie the house elf and learned the elves were enslaved by human families, she was horrified. When she returned to Hogwarts and learned that it was not magic that cleaned their rooms, filled their tables, and carried their luggage — it was house elves — she was beside herself. She started an organization — The Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare (S.P.E.W.) — bent on freeing the lowly house elf. The only problem being, the only house elf in existence who actually wanted to be freed was Dobbie, and he already was.

Hermione's interest had two lasting effects. It softened Ron's heart enough that when Hogwarts was under attack by Voldemort, he immediately thought to warn the house elves down in the kitchen — a thoughtfulness which was the real reason for Hermione's spontaneous snog. And it informed Hermione's later career in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, where she fought for the rights of non-humans.

All of this was running through my mind as I watched a video of Emma Watson (who played Hermione Granger) give a shaky-voiced speech to the UN on their new gender equality campaign "HeForShe."

Feminism has a bad rap in many quarters, especially evangelical Christianity. So I listened carefully and then read the transcript to understand what she was really saying. What I found was that 95% of it is at least biblically allowable, if not supported.

Basically, she is inviting men to be intentional about making sure women have the same opportunities they do.

She spoke about equal pay for equal work. This is biblical. Proverbs 31 speaks of a woman who owns her own business and does financially well. Several verses speak of paying fairly (Romans 4:4; Leviticus 19:13; James 5:4). Jeremiah 22:13 says "Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper rooms by injustice, who makes his neighbor serve him for nothing and does not give him his wages." Both Deuteronomy 25:15 and Leviticus 19:36 make fair pay a part of the Mosaic Law.

The 5% I didn't agree with, of course, was when she added part of gender equality was being able to "make decisions about [her] own body." As much as I understand the emotions behind the pro-choice cause, I'm more interested in equal rights for those women who are not yet born. They can hardly share in equal pay, education, etc., if they are killed in-utero. And it is a fact that more girls are aborted for the simple fact that they are girls.

Next she said, "I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decision-making of my country." She's from the land of Queen Elizabeth and Margaret Thatcher, so I found this point particularly interesting. Personally, this issue is a little slippery for me, as I think it contrasts the difference between what is good and what is a basic human right. It would be good if women had an equal voice in policy making. And to the extent that governments allow any citizen input, it should be a right. But the Bible doesn't recommend a specific system for secular government, so I'm not sure where this one stands in the realm of God-given right. That being said, God does challenge governments (whatever style they may be and whomever may be in charge) with the care and protection of all citizens, not just the powerful — although Scripture is also realistic in knowing this won't always happen.

Emma then said she should be socially "afforded the same respect as men." Absolutely and amen. But this is a fallen world, and I think she overestimates the amount of respect men in the world receive. She may be confusing true respect with "attention won by being aggressive." On the other hand, the spirit of the campaign might actually promote real respect for men as well as women.

Later she gives a passing glance to education. Emma is best known as an actress and a model, but she also has a degree from Brown University in English literature. She points out that she was able to receive the education she had because the people around her didn't place limits due to her gender — something that millions of women around the world do have to live with. While the Jewish culture of the Bible did not value educating women, Jesus had a different idea. He praised Mary for staying and listening to Him teach while Martha was consumed with domestic work (Luke 10:38-42).

Emma then turns things around to show how men have been damaged by the gender wars. How her father's contribution as a parent was minimized and how suicide is the leading cause of death among men 20-49 in the UK. And how if men had the freedom to express their feelings safely, they might not feel the need to be so defensively aggressive. While the Bible doesn't address this issue specifically, anyone who has read the Psalms knows where God stands when it comes to expressing feelings.

Then came two points that I think could easily be taken out of context. She said, "If men don't have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won't feel compelled to be submissive." This line had nothing to do with marriage — it was in the context of social/public behavior. Not that Emma Watson, British actor, would want to champion the cause of traditional Christian roles in marriage, but this shouldn't be seen as an attack, either.

The second line is, "It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum, not as two opposing sets of ideals." Again, she was speaking of social and political interaction. Sexuality wasn't even mentioned. And, again, while her views on sexuality would probably be unbiblical (I'm guessing; I've never heard her views), that's not what she's talking about here. The line comes on the heels of an assertion that men and women should have the freedom to be both sensitive and strong.

Emma Watson's speech grazed over several subjects very quickly. It will be interesting to see how HeForShe plans to manifest these changes. In general, save for one exception, her points were quite biblical. The entire concept is biblical, as well. To invite men to help shape gender equality is a great idea. Instead of demanding and grasping for power, HeForShe are asking for help. Esther, Ruth, and the widow of Luke 18:1-7 would approve.

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TagsBiblical-Truth  |  Current-Issues  |  Political-Issues  |  Womens-Issues

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Published 9-29-2014