Pal, you low down dirty son-of-a-gun, you’ve really done it this time. You’ve declared Weird Al the official Two Pals’ 2014 Man of the Year, which means he’s my man of the year as much as yours, and I did not authorize this provocative (to put it mildly) choice. Sneaky, Pal, very sneaky!
So be it.
You made a good case. I love your solo ping pong story. And I also dig “Word Crimes”, so I suppose we’re O.K.
You closed by calling on me to choose our official Woman of the Year, and when I saw that, one name sprang immediately to mind.
Yes, Emma Watson. Of Harry Potter fame.
Whereas “our” Man of the Year was rewarded for 31 years of work, our Woman of the Year is getting hers for just 12 minutes. Specifically, these 12 minutes:
Ms. Watson was named U.N. Women Goodwill Ambassador in September and that same month delivered a smart, stirring speech that, if there is any justice, will not be forgotten. Its core purpose was to launch HeForShe – A feminist movement that calls upon boys and men to stand up and declare that they are feminists.
Clearly nervous, but fueled by the fire of conviction, she told the world it was time to quit barking about the dreaded f-word. It means equality, not man-hating, and men can and should be feminists as well.
“Gender equality is your issue too,” she said, pointing out that men are also trapped by gender stereotypes, from fathers being seen as the lesser parent to “men made fragile and insecure by a distorted sense of what constitutes male success.”
Then, the key point: “If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled.”
She put a fresh spin on an old idea — that gender equality is not possible if women are the only ones pushing for it.
It struck a chord with a lot of people, myself included.
Because I remember as a kid being asked by other kids “what did your mom make you for lunch” and puzzling over the built-in assumption in the question, and wondering why you wouldn’t just ask “whaddya got for lunch”?
And because, years later, on the days that it was my turn to drop my daughter off at daycare, I would bristle at the tone in the teacher’s voice as she spoke to the child, not me, and say: “Oh! I see Daddy brought you in today! Let’s just have a quick look in your bag and make sure we remembered everything!”
And because when my 9-year-old son plays with his buddies, I see how they are already fashioning their “tough guy” masks, performing their idea of masculinity as defined by athletes and action movies. I recognize the mask because I have worn it. I still do. I suspect we all do, to one degree or another.
And because, in the most extreme cases, some people’s idea of masculinity can be downright disturbing.
In recent months, there’s been an unsettling volume of news items about men behaving criminally toward women. There’s a line-up of women with shocking allegations about formerly beloved CBC radio star Jian Ghomeshi. Likewise, Bill Cosby. There are even accusations of sexual harassment and abuse flying around Canada’s capital city involving elected officials.
All of this seems to have kick-started something. There is a big conversation taking place. It’s filling the news and social media. On Twitter, the hashtag #beenrapedneverreported has taken off.
It’s like one of the world’s biggest, ugliest, worst-kept secrets is finally being brought into the light. It’s ridiculous it took until 2014 for it to happen, but at least it’s happening. It feels like a sea change. But one that’s not going to last if, as Ms. Watson put it, only half the population is a part of it.
I’m not saying Ms. Watson brought all this to the fore – the alleged, brave victims of Ghomeshi, Cosby and others seem to have done that more than anything else. But in a year when a mountain of shit is piling up about men’s treatment of women, I see her message as a clear and essential articulation of the solution that could help us all begin to rise above it.
That’s why I’ll accept her call to declare myself a feminist.
And that’s why Emma Watson is Two Pals’ 2014 Woman of the Year.