Emma Watson’s quest to shatter the myths that plague contemporary feminismSanjana Ray
“Feminism is not here to dictate to you. It’s not prescriptive, it’s not dogmatic. All we are here to do is give you a choice.”
If this was a world where fiction blended into reality, little Hermione Granger would grow up to be the Prime Minister of England, Headmistress of Hogwarts, and Minister of Magic all at once. And she’d obviously be using her time-turner to carry out all three roles splendidly. Today, Hermione’s prowess may be limited to the pages of JK Rowling’s bestselling series, but her diction and relentless pursuit of justice and rights has been taken up by her off-screen counterpart, Emma Watson.
Watson received critical acclaim for her role as Hermione in the Harry Potter film series, but today we respect her more for her social activism, feminism, and pro-change attitude.
The 26-year-old has often confessed to her resemblance of the somewhat domineering and bookish character of Hermione, a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed with the crowds considering her choice of movie characters, an additional degree from Brown University, and her recent launch of a feminist book-club.
While most celebrities have utilised their fandom and brand value to showcase either a strategically thought up business venture, Watson decided to use her privileged platform to spread unadulterated awareness about the feminism today.
On her 27th birthday today, we wish to bestow a nod of mass approval on the child-actor who has grown up to represent a cause which would make even Hermione look up from her books and cheer her on endlessly.
“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.” (source)
Being appointed the UN Global Goodwill Ambassador, Watson delivered a powerful speech on feminism and empowerment and also launched her new campaign – HeForShe – centred on the same ideals. Watson addressed the two key issues that often get misconstrued in contemporary feminist dialogue. Firstly, feminism is often seen as an ‘anti-male’ philosophy. The second is the idea that feminism is limited and reserved to the world of women exclusively.
Speaking about the first notion, Watson said, “…the more I have 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.” Linking this with the second misplaced idea, she says that feminism depicting the demand for the “political, economic, and social equality of the sexes” is as much for men as it is for women. To her, the first step to gaining and realising this equality – in all forms – will naturally take place if men and women begin to challenge the stereotypes. In the case of men, the need to do away with the societal need to control their women will consequently lead to implicit and explicit freedom for the women in question, who can then focus all their energy instead on empowering themselves through all walks of life. Watson’s HeForShe campaign speaks for this idea and many more, all of which aim to make all men and women aware of the benefits of social equality through the practice of feminism, for the functioning of a better world.
“Today I am going to deliver Maya Angelou books to the New York subway. Then I am going to fight even harder for all the things I believe in.” (source)
Emma Watson caused quite the stir in the social media world when she took it upon herself to leave copies of Maya Angelou’s Mom & Me & Mom in the London Underground and New York subway. This was her attempt to get the daily passengers of the most used public transport in both cities aware and inspired about the need for female empowerment in the world. The fact that she chose to deliver this awareness through the writings of late civil rights activist and literary role model added enormously to her mission. Using her social media pages to promote this particular ‘treasure hunt’ campaign intrigued the daily passengers and helped them explore the length of the Tube and Subway to hunt down these books and begin an enthusiastic read.
“We, the entire spectrum of the feminist movement, are building an unstoppable current for which we need ripples of hope from every age, ability, walk of life, from every female experience. I feel gender equality is as important as any of the other goals that we are here to discuss and actually if anything it's even more important because it intersects with every single other issue that we face.” (source)
As part of a campaign launched by global youth forum One Young World in its 2016 summit, Watson announced that she would be granting a substantial scholarship to nine social activist women from across the globe to help them dive headlong into the throes of an all-inclusive and greater education system.
Hailing from countries like Jordan, Angola, and Albania, Watson’s select candidates include names like Jamaica's Aminka Belvitt, Founder of the ForUsGirls leadership initiative for marginalised young women, and Eldine Chilembo Glees, who rallies for female participation in the male-dominated maritime sector in Angola, in which she works. Kina Khalifehm the Founder of SheFighter, Karen Ramirez, the Co-director of a female-orientated The Leadership Center, Mina Tolu, the Communications Officer at Transgender Europe, Joannes Paulus Yimbesalu, a school teacher in Cameroon, Abhinav Khanal, the Co-founder of Bean Voyage, Carlos Ernesto from Cuinic, and Vjola Thoma, Founder of A Woman in Power, are also recipients of Watson’s scholarship programme.
While we are still a long way off from achieving the equality that feminism propagates. And it is the efforts of people like Emma Watson who are using their platforms for the important reasons that have edged us several feet more towards our objective.