Actor and United Nations (UN) Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson gave a powerful speech on gender equality to launch her initiative titled ‘HeForShe’ at the UN headquarters on Saturday. The event was aimed towards helping “mobilise men against gender inequalities,” reported E! Online.
Hosted by journalist-news anchor Wolf Blitzer, the occasion was attended by a multitude of celebrities, including 24 star Kiefer Sutherland and Academy Award-winner Forest Whitaker. Watson, who gained worldwide fame for playing the character of Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series, touched upon many issues in her speech, most notably, the confusion surrounding the term ‘feminism’.
“I was appointed as Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women six months ago and the more I’ve spoken about feminism, the more I have realised 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,” said the 24-year-old.
Watson clarified, “Feminism is, by definition, 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.” She also commented on how women are now choosing not to identify themselves as feminists as the term is becoming increasingly unpopular. “Apparently, I am among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating and anti-men. Why has the word become such an uncomfortable one?”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon applauded Watson for her powerful and emotional speech, saying, “She has been using her magic wand in her movie. I hope she will use [her] magic wand to stop violence against women.”
The Hollywood star aims to involve men in her gender equality campaign, speaking about how gender inequality is not necessarily restricted to women. “Gender equality is your issue too. Because, to date, I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent being valued less by society despite me needing his presence as a child, just as much as my mother’s,” she stated. “I’ve seen young men suffering from mental illness, unable to ask for help for the fear that it would make them less of a man.”
Watson was overwhelmed by the enormity of the task where she had to make a speech at the UN spoke, but despite moments of self-doubt, she decided to go ahead with the project. “In my nervousness for this speech and moments of doubt, I’ve told myself firmly, ‘If not me, then who? If not now, then when?’”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 23rd, 2014.