United Nations Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson, better known for her role as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films, delivered a speech on feminism and gender equality at the U.N headquarters in New York on the 20th of September. In the speech, she launched her campaign HeForShe which aims to try and galvanize as many men and boys as possible to be advocates for gender equality.
Watson’s inspiring speech called for action from men everywhere.
“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,” Watson said.
She continued to speak on gender stereotypes.
“It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum not as two opposing sets of ideals,” Watson said.
Watson spoke of her own observations and experiences with gender discrimination, but still calls herself “one of the lucky ones” because of her privileged upbringing.
“My life is a sheer privilege because my parents didn’t love me less because I was born a daughter. My mentors didn’t assume I would go less far because I might give birth to a child one day. These influencers…are the inadvertent feminists who are changing the world today,” Watson said.
Watson addressed the meaning of feminism and the persistent misconception that surrounds it.
“For the record, feminism by definition is: ‘The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes,” Watson said.
The stereotypes about feminism usually portray an angry, man-hating, unattractive woman with hairy armpits screaming irrationally about imagined insults.
Watson addressed the issue of such stereotypes.
“The more I have spoken about feminism the more I have realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop,” Watson said.
The centerpiece of Watson’s speech was the activation of male support.
“Men—I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue too,” Watson said.
She called on men around the world to take the pledge to destroy gender inequality and so far 167,229 men have taken a stand, with 47,495 being from the United States.
Her speech has already attracted the attention of many famous names including, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Douglas Booth, Simon Pegg, and Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker. There have been more than 220,000 tweets with the hashtag #HeForShe, with thousands sharing pictures of themselves holding signs with the hashtag.
The heroine of the Harry Potter series is looking to use her real life power to achieve immediate change, and by involving both genders in the HeForShe campaign she hopes to put an end to the “us vs. them” mentality.
“We are struggling for a uniting word but the good news is we have a uniting movement. It is called HeForShe. I am inviting you to step forward, to be seen to speak up, to be the ‘he’ for ‘she’,” Watson said.
If we desire equality we must all make an active decision to abandon phrases such as ‘like a girl’ and stop pressuring each other to fit within these stereotypes, which more often than not leaves us with a feeling of self-doubt and an inability to express ourselves.
“If not me, who? If not now, when? … I invite you to step forward, to be seen and ask yourself: If not me, who? If not now, when?” Watson said.