I confess, I have been a huge Emma Watson fan from the time she stepped into Hermione Granger’s shoes. With her mane of shaggy curls and fierce stare, it was not hard to see why the young actress was chosen as the wizarding world’s most powerful witch born to Muggle parents. She was instantly captivating and not just because of her beauty. It was clear, even at that early age, that Watson was a keenly intelligent girl. In the last six months, she was gifted with a United Nations Goodwill Ambassadorship, and she has taken that role seriously.
In her recent UN address, Watson was eloquent, passionate, and pointed out what was wrong with feminism today. Too many people in society today – men and women alike – frequently equate feminism with man hating, and nothing could be further from the truth. Watson rightfully points out in her UN speech that launched the HeforShe campaign that feminism is simply about equality, and shockingly enough, there is no one country that allows both men and women to operate on equal footing. Yes, even in North America, where women can be CEO of a company, men and women fight for equality.
Watson points out in her speech that we are still living in a world where women are shamed for being strong and men are taken to task for sharing their feelings. She does an outstanding job of pointing out to the UN that equality is not simply about equal work for equal pay; it is about being free to be the person we each want to be. I have no idea if Watson relied on a speech writer to help her craft this address to the General Assembly, but it really does not matter. Watson makes it very clear that equality is something she is passionate about for everyone, not just women.
Really, why can’t that be a goal in and of itself? I know of several men who practically break into hives at the thought of sharing their feelings, and I know of women who have been passed over for promotion simply because they are not men. Strange as it may seem, North American society is very sexist, and we are incredibly hung up on gender roles. I confess to giving a young man a second glance at my children’s day care because I didn’t expect him to function in the teacher role at a day care. He was exceptional at what he did, and very well liked by children and staff alike, but he admitted to having been at the butt end of some jokes simply because he chose to be a day care teacher. I have also known female students who loved working outdoors and were eager to begin careers as masons but were leery about taking on the job as a career because of the teasing they knew they would receive.
I know these seem like very First World problems, and I do not intend to diminish the suffering that women cope with in other countries simply because they are able to bear children. However, equality is equality, and it is terrible that men and women worldwide cannot embrace what they love and, in some cases, who they love simply because of their biologically assigned gender. Watson acknowledges her good fortune that she has the privilege of doing what she loves regardless of her gender, but I was impressed to witness the genuine pain she felt at the fact that men and women worldwide are denied those same privileges. Emma Watson’s UN address was heartfelt, and only further proof that she is not just an intelligent actress, but an intelligent young woman who will no doubt stretch beyond the boundaries imposed on her by her choice of profession.
I hope she continues to prove why people should fight for equality.
Opinion by Christina St-Jean