“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.” – Emma Watson
On September 21st, Emma Watson made this very important statement during a moving speech meant to help launch the new UN HeForShe Campaign. There are a number of very critical parts of this speech and I would like to join the media conversation about Watson this week to highlight them (especially since the meaning and depth of her speech is now being overshadowed by the nude photo leakage threats recently made against her).
In the past, Emma Watson has released some really uplifting and empowering statements regarding body image, being a woman, and being smart which were obviously directed toward her fans, many of whom are in fact, young women. There is even a Buzzfeed article which catalogues Emma’s empowering quotes (which I definitely keep bookmarked for extra encouragement). There might also be an article about how much we (the public) love her too. So basically, I wasn’t surprised to see her taking an active role in this campaign launch and just doing great things in general. But what continues to astound me about Emma, her speech, and her seemingly selfless use of publicity, is her humility and grace through it all. Her speech was really wonderful in the way that it avoided demeaning other celebrities who “fear the ‘f’ word” and who have recently claimed not to be feminists and it also didn’t place blame on men. Instead, Emma genuinely included men in the conversation about feminism. She made clear that feminism has never and will never be about being feminine but is instead all about equality and inclusion. And that feminism is, in actuality, a very simple concept. She said in her speech,
“We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see that that they are and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence.”
This is what I see as the very crux of this speech, and what I hope will be the “game-changer” in the way that we think about feminism as a larger society and in the media. I think it is often forgotten or avoided that men too have struggles with gender stereotyping. The stereotype that men are masculine and that making money pertains to masculinity is part of what keeps us in this rut. The idea that some professions are masculine (business/medicine) and others are feminine (teaching/nursing) is a part of what continues to limit men and women alike as well. Coding money, power, and success as masculine does two things: it assumes one definition of success and it alienates both men and women from each other and from what they truly want. I think that Emma is right, if Men and Women can see how gender stereotypes and inequality impact both parties we will be much closer to a solution.
Now, because this statement came from a beautiful and well liked celebrity people will be more likely to sit up and listen … which is another issue in and of it self, but it is nice to see one of my favorite actresses doing something courageous and smart. It’s like Emma asked, “if not me then who and if not now then when?”
I only hope that in the next few years a Google search for someone like Emma Watson will yield her moving speeches and filmic accomplishments instead of yielding items like “Emma Watson bad girl” and “Emma Watson Hot.”