Emma Watson has extended a formal invitation to men and boys to join the conversation on feminism.
The “Noah” actress spoke about gender inequality and the launch of the He for She campaign at U.N. headquarters in New York City over the weekend because she felt that it was her “responsibility to say something.”
The 24-year-old, who addressed the Uruguayan parliament last week, was made a U.N. Women Global Goodwill ambassador earlier this year. On Saturday, she took to the U.N. in hopes to “galvanize as many men and boys as possible to be advocates for change” in her campaign of solidarity.
“The more I’ve spoken about feminism the more I have realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating,” she said, palpably nervous. “If there’s one thing I know for certain it is that this has to stop.”
“For the record: Feminism by definition is 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,” the British actress said, framing gender equality as a human right.
Watson said she decided she was a feminist at age 18 after several personal experiences with gender-based inequality, including being called “bossy” at age 8 and being sexualized at age 14 during the height of her “Harry Potter” fame.
However, the Brown University grad also applauded the “inadvertent feminists” who enabled her, saying she was privileged to have people in her life who didn’t treat her differently because she was a woman.
“My recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word,” she said. “Women are choosing not to identify as feminists. Apparently, I am among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating and anti-men. Unattractive even. Why has the word become such an uncomfortable one?”
The actress stated that “it is right to be paid” as much as her male counterparts and that it’s right to make decisions about her own body -- that latter statement earning her a hearty round of applause from listeners.
Watson also cited Hillary Clinton’s 1997 Beijing speech about women’s rights to show that strides forward have been slow: “Sadly, many of the things that she wanted to change are still true today.”
“How can we affect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation. Men, I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation, " she said as the audience cheered. “Gender equality is your issue too.”
“If we stop defining each other by what we are not and start defining ourselves by who we are, we can all be freer. And this is what He for She is about. It’s about freedom,” she said. “I want men to take up this mantle. So their daughters, sisters and mothers can be free from prejudice, but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too — reclaim those parts of themselves they abandoned and in doing so be a more true and complete version of themselves.”
Hermione Granger would be so proud. Follow me on Twitter @NardineSaad.