Most of us remember Emma Watson as the young girl playing Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter film series. But the actress and the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, delivered a powerful speech in the United Nations Headquarters in New York while launching a campaign called ‘HeForShe,’ yesterday.
The actress announced she comes from a place where being a daughter in the family or being a girl at her school didn’t limit her. But at the same time, she lives in a world where she was sexualized by the media at the age of 14, and saw her female friends dropping out of sports teams because they didn’t want to seem “muscly”. And so deciding she was a feminist at a young age was an uncomplicated decision for her.
Watson strongly expressed that she believes it is right for her to get paid just as much as her male counterparts, to have a right to make decisions about her body and to have women represent other women while making policies about women. Yet, she remorsefully stated that there wasn’t a single country in the world where a woman could expect to receive each of these rights.
She announced that ‘Feminism’ is an unpopular word and is associated with women who are seen as too aggressive, isolated, anti-men and even unattractive. Watson states it’s not about the word but about what it stands for. In her experience the biggest feminists who changed her life were her parents who loved and supported her, her teachers who didn’t limit her and her mentors who never thought she was any less competent than her male counterparts.
Watson called out all men to come and participate in promoting the cause for gender equality. She says that it’s wrong to think the world can be changed by involving just half the population. The Goodwill Ambassador argued that men needed feminism just as much as women.
She said, “I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent being valued less by society despite my needing his presence as a child as much as my mother’s. I’ve seen young men suffering from mental illness unable to ask for help for fear it would make them look less “macho”—in fact in the UK suicide is the biggest killer of men between 20-49; eclipsing road accidents, cancer and coronary heart disease. I’ve seen men made fragile and insecure by a distorted sense of what constitutes male success. Men don’t have the benefits of equality either.”
She however feels that if men were not pressured into being aggressive, women will not be pressured into being submissive as a natural consequence and men needed to stand up for feminism not just for their daughters but also their sons.
She concluded by saying that whenever she finds herself being nervous or self-doubting, she asks herself, “if not me, who? if not now, when?” she advised her audience to do the same and support the cause.