Posts tagged #Feminism

Emma Watson's Fierce Feminist Speech

This past Saturday, September 20th,  Emma Watson, actor and UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador gave a major speech at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. It was the HeForShe campaign launch which is a "solidarity movement for gender equality that brings together one half of humanity in support of the other half of humanity, for the entirety of humanity."  Throngs of people are calling Emma's speech a Game-changer, Powerful, Moving, Excellent and they are all right. I'm thrilled that feminism is infused with such positivity and approval for a change. I welcome this conversation with an open mind and grateful heart.

Emma Watson has long been a favourite in my house. When the first Harry Potter movie came out my eldest child was 8 years old and quickly became absorbed in this world of wizardry and wisdom. Barely a day would go by when we didn't read a chapter, play a game or have a conversation that wasn't centred on the subject. She grew up, along with her younger brother and sister, with Harry, Hermione and Ron; those fictional characters so brilliantly imagined by J.K. Rowling. All the characters in the books and movies have become dear friends and guardians of my children's childhood. We've laughed together, cried together, been thrilled and transformed by the epic tale of Harry and friends, especially the fierce genius of Hermione Granger. Since then, Emma Watson has become a  manifestation of a young feminist star courtesy of her chosen roles, both private and professional. She has played strong and capable female characters in the Potter movies, Perks of Being a Wallflower, and the Bling Ring among others.  Then she took a full-time job as a student and went to university and earned her degree.  Now she is taking on activism and humanitarianism, all while looking fabulous and constantly being on best-dressed lists. She can make any mere mortal feel like a slacker. But I don't hold it against her. Emma is inspirational for her class, discretion, intelligence and ambition and this speech was delivered with such grace and sincerity that I'm enamoured even more. 

Watch the entire speech below:

 

or

 

read the transcript below:

Today we are launching a campaign called “HeForShe.”

I am reaching out to you because I need your help. We want to end gender inequality—and to do that we need everyone to be involved.

This is the first campaign of its kind at the UN: we want to try and galvanize as many men and boys as possible to be advocates for gender equality. And we don’t just want to talk about it, but make sure it is tangible.

I was appointed six months ago and 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.

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 when at eight I was confused at being called “bossy,” because I wanted to direct the plays we would put on for our parents—but the boys were not.

When at 14 I started being sexualized by certain elements of the press.

When at 15 my girlfriends started dropping out of their sports teams because they didn’t want to appear “muscly.”

When at 18 my male friends were unable to express their feelings.

I decided I was a feminist and this seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word.

Apparently I am among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating, anti-men and, unattractive.

Why is the word such an uncomfortable one?

I am from Britain and think it is right that as a woman 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 decision-making of my country. 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 they have achieved gender equality.

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 I would go less far because I might give birth to a child one day. These influencers were the gender equality ambassadors that made me who I am today. They may not know it, but they are the inadvertent feminists who are changing the world today. And we need more of those.

And if you still hate the word—it is not the word that is important but the idea and the ambition behind it. Because not all women have been afforded the same rights that I have. In fact, statistically, very few have been.

In 1997, Hilary Clinton made a famous speech in Beijing about women’s rights. Sadly many of the things she wanted to change are still a reality today.

But what stood out for me the most was that only 30 per cent of her audience were male. How can we affect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation?

Men—I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue too.

Because to date, I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent being valued less by society despite my needing his presence as a child as much as my mother’s.

I’ve seen young men suffering from mental illness unable to ask for help for fear it would make them look less “macho”—in fact in the UK suicide is the biggest killer of men between 20-49 years of age; eclipsing road accidents, cancer and coronary heart disease. I’ve seen men made fragile and insecure by a distorted sense of what constitutes male success. Men don’t have the benefits of equality either.  

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.

If we stop defining each other by what we are not and start defining ourselves by what we are—we can all be freer and this is what HeForShe is about. It’s about freedom. 

I want men to take up this mantle. So their daughters, sisters and mothers can be free from prejudice but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too—reclaim those parts of themselves they abandoned and in doing so be a more true and complete version of themselves.

You might be thinking who is this Harry Potter girl? And what is she doing up on stage at the UN. It’s a good question and trust me, I have been asking myself the same thing. I don’t know if I am qualified to be here. All I know is that I care about this problem. And I want to make it better.

And having seen what I’ve seen—and given the chance—I feel it is my duty to say something. English Statesman Edmund Burke said: “All that is needed for the forces of evil to triumph is for enough good men and women to do nothing.”

In my nervousness for this speech and in my moments of doubt I’ve told myself firmly—if not me, who, if not now, when. If you have similar doubts when opportunities are presented to you I hope those words might be helpful.

Because the reality is that if we do nothing it will take 75 years, or for me to be nearly a hundred before women can expect to be paid the same as men for the same work. 15.5 million girls will be married in the next 16 years as children. And at current rates it won’t be until 2086 before all rural African girls will be able to receive a secondary education.

If you believe in equality, you might be one of those inadvertent feminists I spoke of earlier.

And for this I applaud you.

We are struggling for a uniting word but the good news is we have a uniting movement. It is called HeForShe. I am inviting you to step forward, to be seen to speak up, to be the "he" for "she". And to ask yourself if not me, who? If not now, when?

Thank you.

 

Posted on September 26, 2014 and filed under news.

Sisterhood is Powerful!

This post was originally published as a guest post for Aunt Ruby, a subscription-based company out of Chicago for menstrual care. " AuntRuby" has since closed up shop and now focuses on her bliss - photographing animals. 

Sisterhood is Powerful! is a popular feminist catchphrase. Itʼs a statement, a proclamation, a manifesto, a call to arms, and I love it because itʼs full of hope and possibility and strength. Itʼs saying “Imagine what we could do if we joined together instead of alienating one another?”

Sisterhood is Powerful! Itʼs an invitation to fight the good fight, by which I mean instead of a strong opposition we cultivate an impenetrable defense. Itʼs not bout hurting others but rather by helping, supporting, standing beside, encouraging, and challenging each other to stretch and further our reach and power,

Sisterhood is Powerful! plays on strength in numbers. No man is an island and no woman is a sisterhood; we need each other to exist and grow and thrive.

There are many types of sisterhoods in life. First, there is the traditional embodiment of a sibling. For those fortunate to have a sister, you know the intrinsic value of their company, opinions, guidance and wardrobe. Then there is the sisterhoods we forge ourselves with friends, those women who have our back (and whose back we have) and strive alongside us to be the best women we can possibly be and help us make sense and find our way in this crazy world. Subsequently in college there comes sororities and feminist groups, powerful manifestations of our need to collectively harness and utilize our voices and ideas and our power for the greater good. But sisterhood doesnʼt end there as I have happily discovered. I have been fortunate as a new female entrepreneur to join many groups of like-minded women in my city to gather, share ideas and network. These workshops have provided me with priceless opportunities and associations and boosted my desire to make a positive difference alongside my confidence and have confirmed to me that Sisterhood is Powerful!

Aunt Rubyʼs small business sisterhood is yet another demonstration of the potential of all involved to extend their reach and collectively exist to assist women. I want every woman entering womanhood to have a very clear idea of what is happening in her body at any given time in the cycle through the Female Empowerment Bracelet. Aunt Ruby wishes to ensure that her customers are always ready for that time of the month and she often includes treats that uplift and lighten the burden of being a woman. She includes words of wisdom in the form of hormonal horoscopes in every box and she includes some wonderful sweet treats, intimate grooming products, intoxicating elixirs for our bath, lovely teas and/or a portable pocket for gals who canʼt indulge their relaxation impulse and must go out and about.

Sisterhood is Powerful! applies to these women owned and operated businesses whose primary customers are women and whose primary mission is to help women live happier, more meaningful lives. We all would like to spend our days doing something weʼre passionate about and these sisters do just that and their passion comes from a place of empathy and inspiration and they provide helpful, empowering and loving services and products. These women have opted out of working for “the man” and instead taken it upon themselves to forge new and risky paths with the goal of becoming profitable and productive while providing quality products and services to enrich the lives of their customers. Why would any woman go to some big box store when they could support these small businesses and help realize that Sisterhood is Powerful!?

 

 

Posted on April 2, 2013 .