by Kate Hinsche
On Sept. 20, actress and activist Emma Watson gave a riveting speech before the United Nations General Assembly, launching her HeForShe campaign with UN Women.
Watson is best known for her performance as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series. She was appointed as a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador back in July. The job of every Goodwill Ambassador is to promote the empowerment of women across the globe, and Watson stepped up to the challenge with her speech.
Watson’s speech stands out among many pro-women’s rights speeches for she elaborated on the fact that inequality between the genders hurts men and women. Feminists frequently discuss the negative impact gender roles have on women, but Watson brings a new perspective. “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,” stated Watson. She pointed out that as much as women are undervalued in the workforce, men are unappreciated in the home and in their role as fathers. She applauded Hillary Clinton’s speech on women’s rights delivered in Beijing in 1995, preceding her praise with the disturbing statistic that only 30% of Clinton’s audience was male. Watson challenged men to stand up for gender equality and break free from their stereotypes, rather than continue to keep the spotlight on the women who have a harder time challenging oppression.
The goal of HeForShe is to get men and women across the globe to join in support of gender equality and liberate each other from societal expectations. Watson said, “If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled.” Watson’s speech is a game changer for contemporary feminism; she stepped onto the global stage and in just a few minutes morphed the perception of feminism from an exclusive girl power idea to a mutually beneficial goal that can only be met by teamwork.
Watson also addressed a group of people she referred to as “inadvertent feminists”– people who do not necessarily consider themselves feminists, yet promote a reality of gender equality. She called on these people to release their beliefs from a state of dormancy and publicize their feminist goals. Watson invited every individual listening to her speech to be the “he” for “she”, and join the movement uniting the sexes in the fight for equality. Emma Watson ended her speech with a simple, “thank you” to thunderous applause from the General Assembly.