Emma Watson campaigns for gender equality in U.N. speech

Viking Logue Staff

Emma Watson delivered an impassioned speech about gender and feminism on Sept. 20 for the launch of the HeForShe campaign, an initiative for men to join women in becoming advocates for equality. As a U.N. Women Global Goodwill Ambassador, Watson both denounced the misconceptions concerning feminism and invited male allies to join the fight for women’s rights. In her speech, Watson not only asked for support from men and boys but also insisted that gender inequality is harmful for males as well.

Throughout the speech, Watson cited personal experiences that demonstrated the harms of preconceived gender roles and gender bias. She shared experiences that highlighted how the effects of inequality can start at an early age and remain throughout one’s life.

At the start of the speech, Watson addressed a central aspect of feminism—its definition. To clarify the movement, Watson stated that feminism by definition is the belief that men and women should have equal rights. This directly contradicts the prevalent notion that feminists seek to overpower men. Instead, the ambition behind the word and the movement is to work towards gender equality in political, economic and social settings.

Unfortunately, modern feminism has gained the reputation of being “man-hating” and extremist. Many women have spoken against the movement with campaigns like “Women Against Feminism,” a Tumblr page that features girls holding notecards explaining why they don’t need feminism. Additionally, many female celebrities such as Shailene Woodley have been wary about proclaiming their status as a feminist. It seems that individuals, women especially, are hestitant about the word feminism because of the negative connotation the word and the movement have developed.

Although the speech was well-received with a standing ovation at the U.N. Headquarters in New York, critics have attacked Watson for her statements. They argue that as a wealthy and priveleged actress, she has not suffered the effects of sexism to the extent of more middle-class women. These criticisms have failed to note that Watson acknowledged her position in society and has chosen to use it to spread her platform. Critics have also asserted that the campaign’s name is inherently promoting the gender stereotypes it aims to deconstruct. However, “HeForShe” is not positioning men to be saviors for women, but instead framing gender prejudice as an issue that equally involves both men and women.

Watson’s speech has given a powerful voice to feminism on a global scale. Instead of questioning the validity of her speech, it is the responsibility of each individual to take action to end violence and discrimination against women, as well as recognize the negative effects of gender norms that men face. The Viking Logue Editorial Staff supports HeForShe and Watson’s stance in promoting gender equality throughout the world. In schools especially, it is crucial that each student is valued equally, regardless of gender or other differences. Through understanding feminism and becoming involved in the movement, students and faculty members can work to achieve gender equality.

To learn more about the HeForShe campaign visit www.heforshe.org