Emma Watson’s recent speech at the UN is notable for a few things.
Emma Watson's recent speech at the UN is notable for a few things. First, the eloquent simplicity with which she made her plea against gender inequality. "I am from Britain and think it is right that as a woman I am paid the same as my male counterparts." Second, the campaign she is bringing to the world, HeForShe, which invites men to add their voice to the conversation.
But of equal interest is the conversation itself and the controversy that has been stirred — not over her ideals but over her blatant use of the f-word.
The f-word in this case being feminism. As a recent survey shows, only 20% of Americans identify as feminists, even though over 80% fit the basic definition, agreeing that "men and women should be social, political and economic equals." The pendulum has swung a few times on feminism's popularity in the last century or so. As many have pointed out, Watson has a formidable task ahead in her efforts to reclaim and redefine the word. (Similar to the dating site On Mutual Terms reclaiming "sugar daddy").
For our part, we like the sentiment expressed by feminism's most famous advocate of the last century, Gloria Steinem, in addressing the topic of equality in the workplace. "There are really not many jobs that actually require a penis or a vagina, and all other occupations should be open to everyone." In other words, we recognize that men and women are inherently different, but let's be clear about what those differences are. Everything else is fair game.
Here are 3 differences that make a difference:
1. Men tend to be physically larger and stronger. The scientific term for this is sexual dimorphism, the fact that male and female bodies are built differently. In sports, we could take down the barriers preventing women from competing in men's games and vice versa, but the fact is, men will out-perform women in some sports, and in others, women's build gives them the advantage.
2. While men's brains are slightly larger overall, women have larger frontal lobes than men — yes, that's the part of the brain associated with higher thinking — as well as larger limbic systems — the hub of our emotions. Men's brains are larger in the areas associated with space perception, as well as processing emotionally arousing information — "anything that gets the heart pumping and the adrenaline flowing."
3. At least for the foreseeable future, pregnancy and giving birth are the sole territory of women. So it's understood by all that there isn't such a thing as perfect symmetry when it comes to things like maternity leave and health coverage for pregnancy.
So we're not talking about complete symmetrical equivalence in all things. But men and women are more alike than they are different in most of the ways that matter. As a final note it should be pointed out that the benefits of gender equality aren't just ideologic or humanitarian, they're extremely practical. If you're a manager in business, for example, and you want your team to work smarter, you may want to consider adding women, according to research cited in Harvard Business Review.