Men and women are posting photos showing their support for #HeForShe campaign, an initiative to promote gender equality.

Men and women are posting photos showing their support for #HeForShe campaign, an initiative to promote gender equality. (Dani Hutton/ Xpress Magazine)

For a long period of time, the only people who spoke out about the cause of equality for women through the establishment and defending of equal political, cultural, economical, and social rights for women were feminists and activists.

In the past decade, however, female celebrities like Beyonce, Shailene Woodley, Lena Dunham, Emma Watson, and Ellen Page have bravely declared themselves “feminists”—influencing a whole new wave of young adults.

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, feminism is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. That definition is quite different from the image of “man-haters and anti-men activists” that feminists have generally been depicted as. Feminist and social activist Bell Hooks, born Gloria Jean Watkins, argues that without the liberation of men, as well as women, equality of the sexes cannot be reached.

“It is not the word [feminism] that is important, it’s the idea and the ambition behind it,” says British actress Emma Watson. Watson is one of the latest Hollywood stars to call herself a feminist. Last month, the young actress and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador made headlines when she spoke at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, inviting men to take part in the #HeForShe campaign.

The essence of Watson’s speech was not just to reach the number of women in the world who declare themselves “anti-feminists,” but to also reach all the men who think that this issue is irrelevant to them and their lives.

“I want men to take up this mantle. So their daughters, sisters and mothers can be free from prejudice but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too—reclaim those parts of themselves they abandoned and in doing so be a more true and complete version of themselves,” says Watson.

Male celebrities like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Legend, and Ryan Gosling have all made declarations toward the empowerment for women through equal rights.

“All men should be feminists,” says Legend in an interview at his Chime for Change event back in 2013. “If men care about women’s rights, the world will be a better place. We are better off when women are empowered— it leads to a better society.”

Other stars like Gosling have started Tumblr pages to share feminists phrases and motivational quotes through their celebrity. Gordon-Levitt used his popular YouTube page HITRECORD to create and share an inspirational and informative video regarding feminism.

“How can we accept change in the world if only half of it is invited, or feels welcome to participate,” Watson explains about the impartial role of men in this social movement.

It is naive to think of women’s rights as an irrelevant issue, especially with the fact that women still earn less than men. In 2012, the  U.S. Census Bureau found that women are paid 77 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterpart. This is one of many inferiorities that women face.

With many women, the target of the campaign, being “against” the word “feminism,” it is as if this issue is even more crucial now then it was when it began in the 1800s, when the movement started. Modern day women are thought by some to be equal or even superior to some men because of the improvement in the work force and in powerful positions, but a few exceptions do not erase the bigger issue of gender inequality.

The birth of the #HeforShe campaign brings new hope for the public view and stigma currently surrounding feminism. Men and women can make the declaration to help the equalization of sexes by pledging for the U.N. campaign. If the campaign passes, can we see if anything will change.