We loved her as Hermione, that whip-smart, mouthy, take-no-shit witch who was best in her year at Hogwarts (and let’s face it, probably the best in at least a decade).
Today Emma Watson continues to inspire as a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. The idea behind that is that she will use her celebrity influence to draw attention to important causes and make a difference. I love it when actors/celebrities do this, because celebrities have so much social currency in the media, and using that power in support of a cause is laudable (and a refreshing change from the usual celebrity gossip).
Emma Watson’s feminist speech launching the He for She campaign for the UN has been zipping around the internet lately, and when I finally got around to watching it, I understood why.
Her speech is clear, heartfelt, thoughtful, and brave. No, she’s not saying anything especially new, but she is saying it well, and she’s presenting it to a larger audience. Here’s the video:
Watson makes very salient points here, but I think the best thing she does is bring her personal experience to the table. This isn’t some abstract discussion of intellectuals or “crazy” feminists. This is a well-known actor describing the way inequality between the sexes affects men and women, and advocating for change.
She talks at length about that label of feminism (shudder) and how it is perceived. Feminism is not and never has been about man-hating. Like Emma Watson, I have great respect and love for the men in my life. Feminism exists because little girls are labeled “bossy” instead of “assertive” or “having leadership skills.” Women getting paid less for the same amount of work as men (especially women minorities). Feminism is about all human beings having equal rights and equal value in our society.
Briefly, Watson mentions women’s roles in supporting each other. I have long been fascinated by the concept of female sisterhood/solidarity, and I plan to devote another post to that subject.
Significantly, the campaign Watson launched is about encouraging men to fight for feminism. The truth is, feminism is, at its core, about equality. Men and boys are oppressed in our culture and society in different ways than women are oppressed. Men are supposed to repress their feelings, to take the lead in all relationships, to go to work instead of stay home with their kids. I know several stay-at-home dads, and I’ve seen how loving they are to their children. Watson didn’t touch on discrimination faced by men of color, but I’ve heard enough– well, we’ve all heard enough, haven’t we, with shootings and police brutality and such– to know that it is very real and very ugly.
Look, the last thing we need to do is start arguing over who is facing the most privilege, or heaven forbid, who is superior. Feminism is not raising women above men, it’s about bringing everyone to the same level in terms of rights, respect, and opportunities. And as Watson states, it’s not just about what our patriarchal society is doing to women; men are hurt by it too.
Of course, Watson is a privileged, well-educated white woman, and as MarinaShutUp points out, this privilege (and, I’d say, Watson’s fame) is the reason so many people in mainstream media are taking note. I do believe we need to make more space for women (and men, Watson would remind us) of every skin color, economic level, native language, sexual orientation, nation, etc. etc., to have their say on equality and feminism. But what Watson is doing is using her celebrity status (and yes, her privilege) to make a difference. Look, she could be sitting around watching AVPM or riding her bike or making cookies or blowing her “Harry Potter” earnings on skydiving and a jukebox collection. Instead, she’s devoting her time to using her celebrity status to draw the attention of everyone who follows celebrity gossip instead of the news, and for those of us who just can’t help but pay attention when Hermione Badass Granger speaks up.
I love reading or watching a strong, clear argument in favor of feminism, because I think feminism is a cause that too often gets convoluted and bogged down by fallacies and ignorance. Too many people are willing to attack feminism without fully understanding what it is and why we need it. Being labeled a “feminist” can be a little alarming, depending on the company, but Emma Watson takes the word and owns it. It’s a courageous and very Hermione thing to do.