Emma Watson Launches HeForShe Campaign

Emma Watson was greeted with a thunderous applause and standing ovation after delivering a powerful speech at a UN conference regarding gender equality. Recently appointed as a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, Watson launched the new online campaign “HeForShe” during the conference this past weekend.

Watson’s discussion of how she was treated as a young woman in the public eye was something women of all ages could relate to.  She was called “bossy” at age eight, sexualized by the media at age 14, began to watch her girlfriends shy away from sports at age 15 because they would be seen as too masculine, and at 18, she watched her male friends shut down in regards to discussing their emotions. Watson saw this as a cry for help. “I decided that I was a feminist,” she said, “and this seemed uncomplicated to me.”

In the remainder of her speech, Watson described the negative connotations that come to mind when we hear the word feminist in this day and age. “…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.”

So why, as a society, do we shy away from the word feminist? Watson goes on to explain how this issue is not only one for females, but males as well. This issue we face in our everyday lives is a human rights issue. We put so much pressure on both men and women to be a certain kind of person. Even before we are born, things like colors and toys are pre-determined, and deemed “normal” or “proper” depending on the gender of the child. 

Starting in their pre-teen years, and sometimes even earlier, men begin to fall under the pressures society has set up for them to be a certain type of guy. “We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes, but I can see that they are, and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence,” Watson said. She then extended an official invite to the male population to join the gender equality movement, not only for the benefit of women, but also for the benefit of human beings as a whole.

The campaign, titled “HeForShe”, encourages men all over the world to take action against gender inequalities. It’s a place where we, as humans, can raise awareness of the injustices happening not only in our world, but in our own backyards. As Watson described, this issue cannot be seen as a women’s rights issue anymore, because it involves all humans. It is a call to freedom, so that one day we can live in a world where human beings do not shy away from who they are and how they feel. According to Watson, this is everyone’s issue to speak up about. “If not me, who, if not now, when?”      

You can view Emma Watson’s speech in its entirety at here and a transcription of her speech can be read at here.