by NORA ZACHARSKI '15
Emma Watson is most widely known as the bossy, bushy haired, bucked toothed Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films. She has been beloved by generations as the intelligent, strong, friend of Harry Potter. And although the Harry Potter film series stopped filming in 2011, characteristics of her cherished character are still manifesting themselves in Watson today.
On September 20th, 2014, Watson gave a smart, moving speech to the United Nations, announcing the new HeForShe campaign that the UN is launching. The campaign doesn’t only call for an end to gender equality. “Women’s rights have too often become synonymous with man-hating” says Watson. “If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop”. The campaign is aimed at involving boys and men in the fight to end gender inequality, in hopes that they will realize that this is a universal issue.
Watson cites gender stereotypes in particular for imprisoning both women and men. “Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong. It is time that we all see gender as a spectrum instead of two sets of opposing ideals.”
But even though we are making strides for ensuring gender equality everywhere, Watson reminded us that there are some places that girls still have little to no rights. They are still treated like objects and seen as less of human beings simply because of the fact that they are female. Those who are born with privileges and the abilities to change things have the duty to do so.
And yet, after all the powerful assertions that Watson made, there are still people who continue to feed these confining gender stereotypes.
One such group works for The Daily Mail, a British tabloid. They published an article that focuses almost entirely on Watson’s outfit and style while presenting, not the strong points that she was making.
The journalists perfectly embody the very things that Watson was striving to eradicate, not only with her speech, but with her campaign as well. Although she just spoke in front of the entire world, the only thing that the tabloid could concentrate on was her outfit.
The article does mention that Watson is the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, but they went on to say that she “turned heads in a formal yet stunning ensemble.” The rest of the article is a flashy spread of photos of the actress, shaking hands with supporters and looking very professional. All of the pictures have captions such as “beauty and brains: Emma Watson attended the launch of the UN Women’s HeForShe campaign launch in New York on Saturday” or “rubbing with stars: Watson shook hands as Kiefer Sutherland looked on.” There is no mention whatsoever of the fact that she spoke at the event, or that she was gaining recognition for her inspiring words. The focus was only on taking pictures.
Another newspaper also completely missed the point, going so far as to objectify Watson by plastering a picture of her in a party dress on the front page, which drew attentions mainly to her mostly exposed legs, rather than the moving speech she just gave on feminism.
Even though not everyone agreed with her, the point has still been made, and illustrated even further by articles like the one by The Daily Mail. Gender equality is a real and tangible issue in this world, and it is time that we come up with a real and tangible solution. On the HeForShe website, you can find instructions to help start implementing the campaign in your community. Among the suggestions are starting local fundraising events to raise awareness, and getting support in the community.
Many people may question the motives for this launching this campaign in the first place. Why now? Why us?
Research shows that if we do not move now, it could be decades before women have true equality. Men and women, boys and girls. It is up to all of us to stop gender inequality, and, as Watson said so poignantly in her speech: if you have doubts, simply ask yourself: “If not me, who? If not now, when?”