September 25, 2015, by Michael Jennings

Time for action – standing up for gender equality with HeForShe

This guest post is written by Professor Jem Bloomfield, Assistant Professor in Medieval and Early Modern Literature. Professor Bloomfield will chair the HeForShe Forum 2015 – free tickets are available here.

On Wednesday 30 September, University Park will be visited by a bus from the United Nations, as part of the HeForShe movement. This was launched a year ago by Ban Ki-Moon and Emma Watson, in a global campaign to engage men and boys on issues of gender inequality. The bus will be bringing a team including Elizabeth Nyamayaro, the Executive Director of UN Women, who will be speaking in the Keighton Auditorium. The keynote speech will be delivered by Emma Barnett, the Women’s Editor of The Telegraph.

A big aspect of the HeForShe campaign is encouraging men to sign up to changing a culture of gender equality. Most of us would probably agree that unequal treatment of men and women within universities shouldn’t be tolerated, but it’s too easy to agree to the principle in the abstract and stop there. HeForShe challenges men to recognise the disadvantages women can face in higher education, and to do something about it. It encourages us to stop thinking about gender equality as a “woman’s issue”, or a niche of special interests, and see it as an absolutely basic condition of academic life.

A central element in this is listening to women. When women speak out about the difficulties they face in the media, they can face a backlash which makes it more likely others will keep quiet. When they express concerns about their treatment within academic institutions, it can be suggested that they should accept the status quo as part of being a team player. When women’s voices are suppressed or ignored, their insights are lost and their contribution to society is obscured. Women’s experience of gender inequality must be at the centre of any discussion of the issue.

The conversation on gender equality is far from over. When the university posted the event advert on their Facebook page, one disgruntled comment asked “Just how much equality do women really want?” Clearly some men still see “equality” as a threat, or even as their own property which women are trying to take away from them. Respecting women as equal members of academic culture is something we need to work on. HeForShe challenges men to undertake that work, and to help make a difference.

Image (left to right): Dan Rattigan, Education Officer, Emma Ehrenberg, Women’s Officer, Rob Jennings, Activities Officer and Emma Quaedvlieg, Women’s Officer. Pictured with HeForShe mural, collecting quotes about gender equality from University of Nottingham students.

Posted in AlumniEvents