On September 22, actress Emma Watson (best known for her role as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter franchise) addressed the United Nations as one of their Global Goodwill Ambassadors to deliver a speech launching a new UN campaign entitled He For She. The campaign was born out of the desire to counter the premise that people often see feminism as only by women for women and the movement’s recent bad rap, with feminist women being seen as too strong or aggressive, ugly and anti-men. Watson and the UN want to change that. The UN has described He for She as “a solidarity movement for gender equality that brings together one half of humanity in support of the other half of humanity, for the benefit of all.” After all, as Watson said, “How can we affect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feels welcome to participate in the conversation?”
Following Watson’s speech, many of her celebrity pals showed their support with a fervor, with many well known males (from author Neil Gaiman and singer Harry Styles to Watson’s Noah co-star Logan Lerman and Harry Potterco-star Matthew Lewis), posting pictures of themselves on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook with the campaign’s hashtag #heforshe. As of October 18, 182,781 people had made the He for She commitment to taking action against all forms of violence and discrimination faced by women and girls based on the idea that gender equality is not only a women’s issue, but a human rights issue that requires everyone’s participation.
Unfortunately, not all the press and attention Watson received following her speech at the UN was positive. Watson was targeted by Internet hackers, notably receiving a slew of comments and even a website, threatening to find and release nude pictures of her following the iCloud breach that leaked many inappropriate photos of celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence. Additionally, as with any hot-topic issue, there are the critics. In this case, some people say this campaign ignores the issues men face. However, Watson’s plan was benign and clear in its intent to help garner support for the feminist movement. In that aspect, it has been a success, given that these days it is a victory just to get recognized and garner enough attention to one’s cause.
Watson closed her speech with a question that relates not only to this campaign but is just generally something this generation must keep in mind, given that we are faced with so many worthy causes and pressing issues. Ask yourself, “if not me then who? If not now, when?”