The actress gave an impassioned speech on feminism and gender at the U.N. headquarters in New York this weekend to launch the “HeForShe” campaign which aims to galvanize one billion men and boys as advocates for ending the inequalities that women and girls face globally.
Watson’s speech, which was met with a thunderous standing ovation, not only called for action from male allies, but clarified a persistent misconception about feminism in general. She said:
I decided I was a feminist and this seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word. Apparently I am among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating, anti-men and, unattractive.
Why is the word such an uncomfortable one? I am from Britain and think it is right that as a woman I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decision-making of my country. I think it is right that socially I am afforded the same respect as men. But sadly I can say that there is no one country in the world where all women can expect to receive these rights.
Watson is pushing back against recent campaigns like Women Against Feminism. As Watson puts it elsewhere in her speech, these campaigns portray the feminist cause as “man-hating.” By involving both genders in the HeForShe campaign, Watson hopes to abolish the “us vs. them” mentality.
Watson is potentially in an even better position than many of her peers to do so. Her role as Hermione Granger, the universally adored heroine of the Harry Potter series, gives her an automatic in with male and female millenials. This is a rare case where an actor being conflated with their role might