[Brussels, 26 September 2014] Emma Watson, recently appointed UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, launched the United Nations ‘HeForShe’ campaign last week with a speech subsequently widely described as ‘game-changing.’
In the speech, Watson appealed to men to take up the challenge and become part of the fight for gender equality. She drew on examples of the damaging effects of sexism she had felt in her own life, as well as friends’ experiences, and official statistics detailing the realities of gender inequality around the world. She declared that, ‘There is no one country in the world where all women can expect to receive [the same] rights [as men].’
Watson did also not shy away from using the word ‘feminism’, defining it as ‘the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.’ She asked herself and the audience why ‘feminism’ had become an ‘unpopular’ and ‘uncomfortable’ word, and stressed that while it may not satisfy desires for a ‘uniting word’, the most important thing is to step forward and commit to ending gender inequality through the ‘HeForShe’ campaign.
The speech, which received a standing ovation at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, was widely welcomed and led to a flurry of media attention, where it was described as ‘moving’, ‘brave’ and ‘devastating’. While in the hours following the speech, there appeared to be a serious negative reaction in the form of a website entitled ‘EmmaYouAreNext.com’, which threatened to publish nude photographs of Watson, it turned out to be no more than a viral marketing hoax.
Substantial critique has come from Mia McKenzie, creator of Black Girl Dangerous, who argues here that Watson’s speech does not take into account the intersection of race with the struggle for gender equality, ignores how much men actually benefit from gender inequality, and that the whole ‘HeForShe’ campaign does not include the transgender community. While these critiques are certainly valid, the ‘HeForShe’ campaign has nevertheless enjoyed a huge increase in sign-ups to the campaign following Watson’s speech, and public declarations of support on Twitter have been flowing in.
In spite of the holes in the campaign pointed out by Mia McKenzie, we welcome this flurry of interest around feminism and gender equality and now urge that this awareness turns into real transformative action.
Watch the speech here: