Emma Watson, appointed UN Women Goodwill Ambassador last year, at the age of 24, discussed an interesting aspect of gender equality in her latest interview: the actress questioned the habit of not letting women pay for dinner, since this is an act of chivalry that all human beings should be allowed to enjoy, supposing they are willing to do that. This subtle criticism of traditional gender roles was pronounced in the context of Watson’s ongoing campaign as UN Goodwill Ambassador, “HeforShe”, a campaign launched in September 2014 and aiming to involve men as well as women in the worldwide race for gender equality.
In an interview held at the London Facebook headquarters, Miss Watson exemplified her idea about renouncing double standards with a personal anecdote. She recounted a date she had with a man (whose name she didn’t disclose) and described his reaction when she insisted to pay for dinner. Although the man had thought himself a feminist and although he did not overreact, Watson said there was a bit of uneasiness between them, something “not going down well”. Watson argues that this shouldn’t happen, since two persons – man and woman – can agree to pay for dinner alternatively or to split the bill. Chivalry, manifested in the form of opening the door for someone or taking someone out to dinner, should not be a male privilege, the actress claims. She is trying to challenge the assumption that gender equality has only downsides for men and reveal the fact that true equality means not just equal rights, but also equal obligations. Another meaning of her objection to women’s being always the receivers of chivalry, not the ones to grant it, is that being offered favours that one cannot return can sometimes push people into a subordinate position. Since women are supposed to be equal and paying for dinner is not a form of reminding them of their relative lack of financial strength, but a simple form of politeness, it should also be exercised freely and equally. “The key is chivalry should be consensual, both parties should be feeling good about that. I think it’s a problem when people expect things to be a certain way, to follow a certain status quo.” – Watson explained
The conclusion to her anecdote was nevertheless an optimistic one, since, as the actress observed, gender equality talks have evolved far enough to allow for such an episode to be discussed and overcome. “The cool thing was that we were both willing to have the conversation about why it was awkward, or why it was uncomfortable. We were able to have this dialogue.” – Emma said.
The HeforShe campaign has gathered 240,000 commitments from men all around the world promising to treat women fairly, and as many as 30 million Facebook likes.
image source: the inspiration room