Opinion: Emma Watson and the real meaning of feminism

On Sept. 20, Emma Watson shed her roots as Hermione and made a speech at the United Nations Headquarters about a new campaign called HeForShe.

This campaign encourages men and boys to become advocates for gender equality.

How many of you identify as feminists? How many of you are afraid to identify as feminists for fear of being laughed at, seen as inappropriately masculine or feminine, or perceived as a “man-hater?”

One of the most moving portions of Watson’s speech addressed the negative connotation of feminism in today’s society.

“Fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating,” Watson said. “If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop.”

Feminism is defined by Merriam-Webster online dictionary as “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.”

Nowhere in the definition is there any mention of negativity towards men, dominance or even a specific reference to female empowerment.

If you tell me you do not identify as a feminist, are you telling me that you do not agree with the concept of equal rights and opportunities among both men and women?

This is serious stuff, ladies and gentlemen.

Maybe it is time to adjust your perception and inadvertent stereotyping of feminists.

You may even be one yourself.

Watson stated that her decision in her teens to become a feminist was a simple one, and that she was unaware at the time of the negative implications this seemingly innocent decision would bring upon her.

She said she fell among the ranks of women, feminists, who are seen as “too strong, too aggressive, isolating, anti-men and unattractive.”

Emma Watson, unattractive? Emma Watson, aggressive?

These are not usually the first adjectives that come to mind when describing a vivacious and beautiful female role model.

It is, in fact, time that women are paid the same amount as men for equal work.

It is time to make moves and take action to ensure that more countries in the world are taking steps to ensure that this adjustment takes place sooner than within the next 75 years.

Watson called upon men to act now.

Men, she said, are imprisoned within their own gender stereotypes as well.

“It is time,” Watson said, “that we all perceive gender on a spectrum, not as two opposing sets of ideals.”

There is no reason that men should feel as if they cannot express emotion.

There is no reason that men cannot proudly express the portions of their being they have felt they must keep under wraps since childhood.

The movement for gender equality has found a perfect place to start: with men.

There are a few main ideas here: men standing up for women and communities coming together, regardless of gender, to fight for equality in all areas of life.

Reclaim the portion of your personality, whether you are male or female, that you have left behind after experiencing pressure from societal gender norms.

Watson is telling us to rid ourselves of these preconceived notions, for “He” to take a stand for “She.”

Do you know a man or boy in your life that may be what Watson refers to as an “inadvertent feminist?” If so, this is the campaign for him. At the end of her speech, Watson said, “If you believe in equality, you might be one of those inadvertent feminists I spoke of earlier. And for this, I applaud you.”

Emma, I applaud you for your brave words and for sparking conversations about gender equality that have been kept under wraps for generations.

You are truly an inspiration for the young people of today.

-May McNeil ’16, Junior Features Editor

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