Emma Watson was recently appointed the U.N. Women's Global Goodwill Ambassador, and on Saturday, the former "Harry Potter" star delivered a powerful speech at the United Nations headquarters to launch the HeForShe campaign against gender inequality.
"I was appointed as Goodwill Ambassador for U.N. Women six months ago and the more I've spoken about feminism, the more I have realized that fighting for women's rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop," she began. "For the record, feminism, by definition, is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes. I started questioning gender-based assumptions a long time ago."
The 24-year-old explained what prompted her interest in advocating for feminism and gender equality.
"When I was 8, I was confused about being called 'bossy' because I wanted to direct the plays that we would put on for our parents. But the boys were not. When at 14, I started to be sexualized by certain elements of the media, when at 15, my girlfriends started dropping out of their beloved sports teams, because they didn't want to appear 'muscle-y,' when at 18, my males friends were unable to express their feelings, I decided that I was a feminist," she said. "And this seems uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word.
"Women are choosing not to identify as feminists," she continued. "Apparently, I am among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, 'too aggressive,' isolating and anti-men, unattractive, even. Why has the word become such an uncomfortable one?"
The actress also tackled the issue of women being paid less than men in the same job positions -- a blatant injustice which affects women in the U.S. and the entire world.
"I am from Britain and I think it is right that I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body, I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and the decisions that affect my life," she said, as the crowd broke into applause. "I think it is right that socially, I am afforded the same respect as men.
"But sadly, I can say that there is no one country in the world where all women can expect to receive these rights. No country in the world can yet say that they have achieved gender equality," she continued. "These rights, I consider to be human rights but I am one of the lucky ones, my life is a sheer privilege because my parents didn't love me less because I was born a daughter. My school did not limit me because I was a girl. My mentors didn't assume that I would go less far because I might give birth to a child one day. These influencers are the gender equality ambassadors that made me who I am today… The reality is, that if we do nothing, it will take 75 years – or for me, it will be nearly 100 – before women can expect to be paid the same as men for the same work."
Emma also recalled a speech Hillary Clinton gave in 1997 in Beijing about women's rights.
"Sadly, many of the things that she wanted to change are still true today. But what stood out for me the most was that less than 30 percent of the audience were male," she said. "How can we affect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation?"
-- Erin O'Sullivan