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Emma Watson: Changing the Face of Feminism

Since Emma Watson launched the UN Women’s Solidarity Movement for Gender Equality under the #HeForShe campaign in September 2014, the face of feminism has dramatically changed. 

#HeForShe aims to transform the stigma surrounding the feminist movement from a struggle led by women for women to an all-inclusive promotion of equal rights, opportunities, and responsibilities.

In a celebration of International Women’s Day 2015, Facebook teamed up with Emma for a Q&A, hosted by BBC Radio One’s Greg James, on all things gender equality. The event was held in London and attended by select members of the public. Luckily, Facebook livestreamed the interview so that the rest of the world could tune in to the actor-come-activists’ wise words.

Naturally the Her Campus girls were eager at our computers (and secretly crying that we couldn’t be there in person). However if you missed the streaming, it has been re-posted on Emma Watson’s Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/emmawatson

#HeForShe invites men to help fight sexism by acknowledging the huge impact gender inequality has on men as well as women. In this way, the movement can unify the efforts of both sexes to encourage equal distribution of rights as well as a celebration of historically devalued feminine qualities.

Therefore gender equality is more than just creating opportunities for women to access the corporate or finance sectors. The campaign aims to create a space where both men and women feel that they are able to express ways that gender inequality has negatively affected their lives.

In this sense, feminism and gender equality should be seen as an ‘equality club’, rather than something exclusive and intimidating. #HeForShe is attempting to break down any associated negative connotations and make people more comfortable in acknowledging the problem openly.

In the hour-long interview, Emma touches on the inequalities in her own profession; a hot topic after Patricia Arquette captured the attention of the world at the Oscars last month. She stresses that although the UK – one of the most progressive democracies in the world – should be setting a positive example, it is in fact falling drastically behind. There are huge disparities in the education system, with particularly poor representation and encouragement of girls in Sciences and Maths subjects. Furthermore, statistics published in the Guardian on International Women’s Day show that in the UK 85,000 women are raped annually; women are, on average, getting paid 16% less than their male colleagues for the same jobs; and 77% of the UK Parliament is male, which places the UK as 56th in the world for female political representation.

To celebrate the #HeForShe campaign and International Women’s Day in style, I have chosen 8 questions and answers taken directly from the interview with Emma that will leave you questioning the ‘Patriarchy’ that we all live under…

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Q – How does gender inequality in the developing world, for example the imbalanced availability of secondary school education based on gender, make you feel? What would you like to see change?

A – “First of all, if someone had told me that my brother could go to school and I couldn’t because I was a girl, I would have been so hurt and so baffled and so… why?! The fact that this is still going on the world over is something that really needs to be addressed.

But I guess I will just say: how and why are you not recognising the potential of that girl? Why are you not recognising what she can bring to the table? We need Ying and Yang, we need that balance, we need female representation, we need female leadership. Women have so much to offer, we are such an untapped part of this world. So much potential just gets wasted because girls aren’t encouraged in the same ways men are.”

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Q – Where does the tackling of gender inequality begin? What are the simple, everyday things that this ‘new generation of activists’ can do?

A – “For some reason, women are still in the place where we feel like we need to be given permission… to be our full selves, to use our full voice, to want to lead. That has to change with encouragement and role models.

I think people feel intimidated because they feel like they have to come up with some grand, huge scheme, but it’s not as complicated or intimidating as that… it’s every day, it’s individuals on a case by case basis taking action. Just doing something, whether it’s speaking up, whether it is just trying to change the way that someone else thinks about the issue. It can be done in so many different ways.”

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Q – How do you get around the conflicting dichotomy between chivalry and sexism? Is there a tendency to take offense over the smallest things?

A – “But isn’t this just politeness? Isn’t it just a nice thing to do for someone else? I love having the door opened for me, I love being taken to dinner. But the key is, would you mind if [a woman] opened the door for you? It should be whatever makes you each feel comfortable, therefore chivalry should be consensual. There is a problem when people expect things to be a certain way, or to follow a certain status quo.”

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Q How will the #HeForShe campaign benefit the LGBT community?

A – “#HeForShe is about men coming in to support women, and femininity, and feminine qualities, because they are currently valued less by our society, and I think that femininity needs to be embraced wherever it is found. Whether it be found in a man, whether it be found in a woman, whether it be found in a gender non-conforming person. Wherever it is found we need to be embracing it. I’m also against racism, and homophobia, and classism, and ableism, and xenophobia, and all of it. My specific mandate is to advocate for women and girls, I am the UN goodwill ambassador for women. But I also understand that these oppressions are interlocking, mutually reinforcing, and that intersectionality is a really important word here. We need to be supporting each other.”

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Q – Do you have fears about what could be happening in 10 years’ time if we don’t make a stand now?

A – “I think, for some reason, we have this view that… we’re doing alright. There’s a lack of a sense of urgency around this issue. And also, people not really understanding what a huge impact this issue has all over the world. I think it is probably one of the biggest contributors to poverty, to violence, to discrimination. It hinders the development and progress all over the world.”

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Q – If you were a man, would you be equally passionate about gender equality?

A – “I’d say my brother is more of a feminist than I am, he’s pretty passionate. And we live a bit like twins, so I can kind of get myself in that headset. I would… not because I have a mother or a sister, just because it is right.

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Q – What are you doing to address the discrimination against men, or violence towards men, from women?

A – “First of all, we are acknowledging that it exists, because I think people don’t think this is a thing. Again, I don’t think in the past we have addressed how men are suffering as a result of gender inequality… We are trying to give them a safe space where they feel like they can talk about these issues… We want to try and help and support them. Just because we say that it is not right that women are the recipients of violence, we are definitely not trying to encourage violence against men.”

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Q – Do you think it is possible, in our lifetime, to achieve what you are set out to achieve: gender equality?

A – “At the current rate, no, I will probably be dead. But I think I am just going to refuse to die… until I get to see an equal number of female Prime Ministers, and Presidents, and CEOs, and more men that actually feel like it is OK to express how they really feel about things, and more fathers that are present in their children’s’ lives. Until I see us all not policing and ostracising each other and oppressing each other. When I live in a world where there isn’t such a narrowly defined definition of masculinity and femininity.”

 

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Although (I hope) this finds many of you nodding in agreement and solidarity with Emma and the UN’s #HeForShe movement, it is imperative that we take action and get behind the campaign. If you are prepared to stand up for equal rights, pledge your commitment to the cause at www.heforshe.org and share this with the men in your life.

The UN Women have just launched the #HeForShe IMPACT 10x10x10 Initiative which aims to engage governments, corporations and universities as instruments of change, and therefore increase the momentum of the gender equality movement further in to 2015.

Ultimately, #HeForShe is about men coming in support of women, and women coming in support of men, to encourage fair and balanced development which will benefit us all.

Photo Credits:dailysignal.com

theinspirationroom.com

Vice President, Her Campus Exeter 2015 - 2016
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