Culture

Emma Watson Gives Speech On Feminism To U.N., Gets Used For Publicity Stunt

CREDIT: AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico

Emma Watson, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, takes notes during an event at Parliament in Montevideo, Uruguay, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014. Watson attended the event organized by women's groups which are pushing the country's lawmaking body to increase its numbers of elected female senators and deputies. (AP caption)

Sometimes celebrities grow up to be exactly who you hope they will be. Case in point: Emma Watson, United Nations Goodwill Ambassador. This weekend, the actress/model/Ivy League grad gave a speech to kick off the “HeForShe” campaign. Feminism isn’t a “women’s issue,” she argued; it’s everyone’s issue. She spoke about the myriad ways in which girls and women are discriminated against in the world and how men, too, suffer from gender stereotypes.

“We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see that that they are and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence.

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.”

Watson’s whole speech is excellent and worth a read (you can get the full text here). In it, she talks about how her own accomplishments would have been impossible but for good fortune — being born in a country where girls are educated as well as boys are; having parents who valued her life — and the aid of people she calls “inadvertent feminists,” men and women who have been her mentors, teachers and influencers, refusing to allow her gender to be some obstacle en route to a satisfying, meaningful life.

What’s striking about the experiences Watson describes isn’t that she’s led an extraordinary life (even though, for obvious reasons, she has) but that she’s faced the same kind of challenges and judgment as so many other women. She was called “bossy” as a child. She was sexualized as a young teenager. She watched her friends quit sports “because they didn’t want to appear too ‘muscly.'” She watched her male friends be unable to express their emotions. Nothing she describes sounds especially foreign or strange. You could spend all day, all week, all year, trying to find one woman who doesn’t relate to at least one thing in that list, and you’d come up empty-handed.

Meanwhile, Business Insider is reporting that a 4chan user “has created an ominous countdown site that hints at the release of leaked naked photographs of actress Emma Watson in just over four days.” The site, called “Emma You Are Next,” shows a countdown ticker and the message, “Never forget, the biggest to come thus far.” Though this comes on the heels of round two of a celebrity photo hacking, the Business Insider report is quick to add that this site is likely just a “prank.” You know, just one of those super-funny pranks where garbage people try to intimidate and silence women by threatening to invade their privacy and, as Anne Hathaway put it to a leering, totally out-of-line Matt Lauer, “commodify the sexuality of unwilling participants.”

This threat, fake though it may be, reminds me of something Taylor Swift said in her recent Rolling Stone profile:

Swift says she never feels completely safe, especially when it comes to her privacy. “There’s someone whose entire job it is to figure out things that I don’t want the world to see,” she says. “They look at your career, they look at what you prioritize, and they try to figure out what would be the most revealing or hurtful. Like, I don’t take my clothes off in pictures or anything – I’m very private about that. So it scares me how valuable it would be to get a video of me changing. It’s sad to have to look for cameras in dressing rooms and bathrooms. I don’t walk around naked with my windows open, because there’s a value on that.”

She checks for cameras in dressing rooms and bathrooms.

Here’s hoping Watson’s speech can be a part of changing a culture that treats women this way. Maybe it can be a huge learning lesson for everyone.

UPDATE

The “Emma You Are Next” site was a publicity stunt by Rantic Marketing, a firm that technically does not exist. Mashable reported this morning. “By midnight on Wednesday, the URL redirected to Rantic Marketing’s website. Watson’s face and the countdown clock has been replaced with a banner that says, “#shutdown4chan” and an open letter to President Barack Obama that claims celebrity publicists hired the marketing company to popularize a call for Internet censorship and the end of 4chan.” Never thought I could disagree so much with a group that wants to destroy 4chan, but this whole stunt is STILL a terrible thing to do to another person, especially considering it does not seem like Watson was in on the idea. So she spent an entire day thinking she was under attack, and this is supposed to be an acceptable thing because it’s all for the greater good? SMH.

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