Why the World Needs More Emmas

Hermione Granger, Madison Montgomery, Olive Penderghast, and Nanny McPhee all have one thing in common, something we need more of. Can you guess it?

Emma. The name is what they have in common. Or at least the actresses.Now, I don't necessarily mean we need more girls named Emma in the world. The name itself has been the second most popular girl's name seven times since 2003 and finally reached number one in 2008, according to the Social Security Administration. So I'm not saying that the world is lacking in Emmas.

What I mean is that we need more role models like Emmas. Watson, Stone, Roberts, Thompson; you name them, we need them. I want to grow up to be like them and I want any daughters or nieces or granddaughters of mine in the future to aspire to their greatness. Woman should aspire to be them because, as separate entities and taken as a whole, they surround us with traits and actions every woman wants and are just a tad too afraid to reach for.

If by now you haven't heard about Emma Watson's speech to the U.N. headquarters, lemme give you the low down. Watson's now a UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador, and on September 20, she spoke in front of the United Nations to kick off the HeForShe Solidarity Movement for Gender Equality. It's been endorsed with the hashtag #heforshe over social media by multitudes of male celebrities, from Russell Crowe to Harry Styles to Chris Colfer. She's become the voice of millions of women and men in places where their well-being and ideas are considered second place simply because they aren't on par with the norms of their society."If we stop defining each other by what we are not, and start defining ourselves by who we are, we can all be free, and this is what HeForShe is about," she said. "It’s about freedom."

Not only has Watson done this, but she decided that the whole film career track wasn't enough. Always one to promote education in interviews, she attended Brown University and graduated this past May, while still starring in the end of the Harry Potter series and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, among other films.

But Watson isn't the only Emma girls should look up to. Known for her quirky personality, Emma Stone is up there as well. She and boyfriend Andrew Garfield have, on multiple occasions, covered their faces with napkins or papers with websites for good causes like Autism Speaks and Worldwide Orphans Foundation written across them while being bombarded by paparazzi. They don't want their faces to make the evening news when there are other incredibly more pressing issues we as an audience aren't informed about and aren't discussing.

Her characters also embody ideals that every woman wish to exhibit in an ideal world. Easy A's Olive Penderghast is self-assured and sassy; Zombieland's Wichita is protective and strong; The Help's Skeeter Phelan is driven and will stop at nothing to get her answers. I know I'm personally only one of those things, but that doesn't stop me from admiring those characteristics and working towards being able to call myself all of them.

The world of fiction follows the same conception. Jane Austen knew what she was talking about when she wrote Emma back in 1816. Title character Emma Woodhouse is self-described as "handsome, clever, and rich," and while for the duration of the novel she gets on others' nerves, even the most stringent reader can't help but admit that Woodhouse is persistent to a fault in following her beliefs. ABC's drama Once Upon a Time focuses on the literal fairytale times of Emma Swan, a rough and tumble girl with a dark past who doesn't take crap from anybody because she knows herself the best. Forget what anybody else thinks, she stays true to herself to a tee.But even more hopeful than all this exposure is the fact that there are normal Emmas, girls like you and me, who are becoming their own role models. The ideals of these famous Emmas are finally beginning to trickle down into public domain. Emma Sulkowicz is now a senior at Columbia University, but during her sophomore year she was raped by a classmate on her own mattress. With two other women who were assaulted by the same person, she filed a case against her rapist with the school, sending her into a whirlwind of fighting against a university that was "more concerned about their public image than keeping people safe," Sulkowicz said in a special article written for TIME. She's become most notable now, not for the not guilty verdict the rapist got from the hearing, but for the form of protest she's taken. As of September 21, Sulkowicz's performance "Carry That Weight" entered its fourth week. For a month, Sulkowicz has been carrying her 50-pound school mattress, the one she was raped on, around Columbia's campus, raising awareness for the inequality and menace the university is trying to sweep under the rug. Her classmates help her, something that gives me hope. Bad things are still going to happen, that's an unstoppable and saddening fact about our society, but at least there are people out there who will help you out when you need it.

Photo by Jennifer S. Altman for the New York Times

Names have special meanings, whether parents mean them when they name their children. The general agreement is that the name Emma means 'universal' or 'whole.' Maybe if we take a hint from the Emmas we know, women around the globe can start to feel that way.