HeForShe Movement and Cultural Change : How Can the UN Universal Gender Equality Rhetoric Be Adapted to Local Cultural Practices?

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Title: HeForShe Movement and Cultural Change : How Can the UN Universal Gender Equality Rhetoric Be Adapted to Local Cultural Practices?
Author: Engström, Olivia Emelie
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, Valtiotieteellinen tiedekunta
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences
Helsingfors universitet, Statsvetenskapliga fakulteten
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2019
Language: eng
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-201911043839
Thesis level: master's thesis
Degree program: Nyky-yhteiskunnan tutkimuksen maisteriohjelma
Master's Programme in Contemporary Societies
Magisterprogrammet i moderna samhällen
Specialisation: Antropologia
Abstract: In my thesis, I investigate how the allyship between UN Women and HeForShe Champions - male leaders, representatives of different countries and communities, make a significant shift in the universal UN gender equality discourse. I show how such allyship helps to modify the abstract UN gender equality rhetoric into change in cultural practices. My data is the UN documents representing gender equality discourse and is chosen within chronological frame between 1945 and 2018. My research answers questions What impact does the HeForShe movement has on the UN gender equality discourse? How does rhetoric of the UN gender equality discourse changes when male leaders are invited to participate as allies in efforts to solve gender inequality issues? I apply Kevin C. Dunn’s and Iver B. Neumann’s post-structuralist discourse analysis to trace the development of the rhetoric of men’s agency and to detect significant shifts in the UN gender equality discourse. I utilize Peter Hedström’s and Richard Swedberg’s analytical mechanism-based approach to explain the possibility of social change through the application of specific social mechanisms. I show how situational, action-formation and transformational mechanisms initiate the change in cultural practices, which further spread by means of social network diffusion effect, described by James S. Coleman. My findings show that the Champions interpret the UN global universal rhetoric of gender equality into the local cultural contexts. UN Women utilizes the knowledge and the positions of local leaders in order to implement the UN gender equality strategies in a way that they would work in the local contexts of different communities. New set of the ideas and the values incorporated into the exemplary actions of HeForShe allies, modifies patterns of attitudes and behavior. It spreads further through the next level of social networks, through social contacts. Such allyship approach transforms the rhetoric of men’s role in the UN gender equality discourse into practices. UN Woman strategy to leverage social and cultural capital of local leaders makes a significant shift in the UN gender equality discourse from the rhetoric to the path of cultural change.
Subject: Keywords: HeForShe
UN Women
the UN gender equality discourse
social capital
cultural capital
social change
post-structuralist discourse analysis
social mechanisms
network diffusion
cultural practices
cultural change

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