Some might deem it magical that a child star should grow up to be as socially conscious and determined to do as much good in the world as the character for which she became famous for portraying. That is apparently what happened to Emma Watson, the young actress whose name the world learned when she won the role of Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone film adaptation at the age of 10. Watson was recently named a United Nations Global Goodwill Ambassador and has made her first big move as a UN ambassador.
On September 20th of this year, Watson launched a UN women’s campaign entitled “HeForShe,” a feminist campaign targeted not at women but at men, who, Watson acknowledged, are also victims of patriarchal societies’ inherently sexist norms.
Said the actress: “I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent being valued less by society. I’ve seen young men suffering from illness, unable to ask for help for fear it will make them less of a man….Men don’t have the benefits of equality, either.” The solution, she proposed, was to join with women in the search for equality and for each gender to support the other in their ultimate goal: a society free of crippling sexist notions.
“Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong,” she said. Watson also addressed the fact that the notion of acknowledging inequality between the sexes has become so taboo that even those who believe in gender equality are afraid to describe themselves as feminists or state that they support feminism (to which some feminists refer half-jokingly as “the f-word”).
Women and Men Join Together For Equality
“Why has the word become such an uncomfortable one?” she asked. “I think it is right I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decisions that will affect my life. I think it is right that, socially, I am afforded the same respect as men.”
The actress went on to acknowledge that her personal success was possible thanks to the love and support of family and mentors who didn’t judge her potential based on her gender and that, in that respect, she is very lucky. But, as she pointed out, no country or region has perfected gender equality. In fact, most suffer from a staggeringly large gap between the privileges afforded to men but not to women. And this, Watson stressed, is the precise reason why men need to join women in their fight for equality.
“I want men to take up this mantle so that their daughters, sisters, and mothers can be free from prejudice but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human,” she said.
Towards the end, Watson noted her reluctance to deliver a speech that addresses the hot-button topic, which she pushed aside by asking herself: “If not me, who? If not now, when?” In closing, she challenged the audience to do the same, stating, “I invite you to step forward, to be seen and ask yourself: ‘if not me, who? If not now, when?’”