Emma Watson Grows From Child Star To Powerful Feminist In Inspiring UN Speech

emma-watson-un-speechEmma Watson really is the brightest young witch woman of her age. At a United Nations meeting in New York on Sunday, Watson gave a speech in her role as U.N. goodwill ambassador in support of gender equality, and asking men to stand up in solidarity for the rights of women everywhere. During her speech, Watson also permanently cemented my adoration for her by proudly and firmly labeling herself as a feminist.

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The successor to Hermione’s Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare appears quite a bit more well thought out, and not just in terms of acronyms. Watson’s goal with her new HeForShe movement is to get wants everyone on board the feminism train, and she makes a point to remind her audience that misogyny is bad for men, too:

If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled.

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 perceive gender on a spectrum not as two opposing sets of ideals.

In her speech, Watson acknowledged her own privileges in life compared to women who haven’t had a starring role in some of the biggest movies of all time, while also pointing out the many times that she’s run up against sexism anyway: the word “bossy” being thrown at her as an eight-year-old who wanted to help direct school plays alongside the boys; the gross slavering over her teenage years perpetrated by a large portion of the media (not to mention an unsavory cross-section of the Internet). She’s obviously nervous during her talk, and mentions her thought that the audience may be wondering who “this Harry Potter girl” is and what business she has addressing the U.N. But that doesn’t stop her from delivering an articulate, measured, and inspiring speech that you should sit down and watch with any kids in your life – girl or boy – who are old enough to understand the idea of inequality. Come on, kids! Hermione wants to talk to you about gender issues!

Watson’s identification as a feminist here comes at a time when a lot of her peers are running in the other direction: Katy Perry, Carrie Underwood, Watson’s fellow genre-film star Shailene Woodley and others have hurried to avoid being tarred with the brush of mean, man-hating feminism. But Watson isn’t shy about reclaiming that terrible word that means she thinks women are people, too, and reminds us all that a rising tide of women’s rights will lift all ships, regardless of gender. Her amazingness gives me another good reason to keep re-watching Harry Potter movies instead of subjecting myself to Woodley’s drecktastic-looking Divergent (the 41% rating on Rotten Tomatoes being another of those reasons). Emma Watson should be a role model for all of us, and I hope she’s not the last young celebrity I’ll hear about this year who’s proud to claim the title of feminist for herself.

(Image: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty; video: YouTube)

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