Emma Watson’s call to action for gender equality

Though most of us still associate Emma Watson with Harry Potter, the actress now has another feather in her cap. At the launch of the He for She campaign, the newly-appointed UN Goodwill Ambassador discussed sexism and gender equality.

The actress started off her powerful speech by dispelling commonly-held myths about feminism. She spoke about feminism and how it has become associated with man-hating. "Feminism, by definition, is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities," declared Watson. "It is the theory of the physical, economic and social equality of the sexes."

She further went on to tell us about her own journey with feminism. Emma highlighted incidents from her life and of those around her. This included sexualization in the media and being labelled "bossy" for taking an initiative.

She also brought up another important and often ignored aspect of sexism: its effect on society as a whole. Not only did Emma Watson touch on topics like reproductive rights and wage inequality, but she also mentioned how sexism affected her male friends. Sexism affecting men… doesn’t seem like such a big problem, right? However, the actress brought up that men are often confined by sexism too. She shed light on the fact that most men choose not to express their feelings, as they fear being labelled "feminine" or "inferior". She also talked about suicide among men, society’s distorted view of masculinity and other problems plaguing men.

"If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive," said Emma Watson. "If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled. Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong. It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum, instead of two sets of opposing ideals."

"I want men to take up this mantle, so that their daughters, sisters and mothers can be free from prejudice," continued Watson. "But also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too."

Even then, understanding these problems doesn’t always make someone identify as a feminist. Emma spoke about how lucky she’d been to be raised by and around people who advocated gender equality. However, she also acknowledged that not everyone has had the same privilege. The actress added how this privilege helped her understand why she felt she could, and should, make a change.

She signed off her speech by further explaining her motivation to change things. "The reality is that if we do nothing, it will take 75 years before women can expect to be paid the same as men… for the same work," explained Watson. "15.5 million girls will be married in the next 16 years, as children. At current rates, it won’t be until 2086 before all rural African girls can have a secondary education."

"If you believe in equality, you might be one of those inadvertent feminists that I spoke of earlier. And for this, I applaud you."

Unsurprisingly, the actress was met with several rounds of applause herself. Well done, Emma! 1000 points to Gryffindor!

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