For the longest time, I didn’t want to be associated with the word “feminist”. The way I perceived feminists and feminism was shaped by how feminists were portrayed in the media and in society. I am not sure where it came from but by the time I was 18, I knew that identifying as a feminist meant hating men. For many years, “I am not a feminist, but…” was how I began any sentence advocating for gender equality.
In her article The “F” Word: How the Media Frame Feminism, Debra Baker Beck rejects the feminist label but not the case. “The media world – and Western thought in general – emphasize opposition and dichotomy,” she writes. So raising up women comes to mean putting men down. We demonise feminism, and any ideology that questions the norm for that matter, because it threatens what is considered normal, she writes.
But this week actress Emma Watson brilliantly articulated what feminism really is in a speech she gave at the UN headquarters in New York for the launch of the HeforShe campaign; which has been described as “a solidarity movement for gender equality”. The video soon went viral.
Known to most as Harry Potter’s sidekick Hermione Granger, Watson (24) was earlier this year appointed a United Nations Women Goodwill ambassador. Evidently, she takes the role seriously.
“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.”” Watson said.
Watson’s speech sent shockwaves across the world, particularly because she focused on the negative connotations that are associated with being a feminist. The aim of the HeForShe campaign, she said, is to end the “us vs them” perspective that exists and to divorce “man-hating’ from feminism.
“Men — I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation,” she said. “Gender equality is your issue too.”
Late on Monday, reports that the internet forum 4chan are threatening to publish Watson’s nude photos surfaced. These threats are understood to have come in retaliation for her speech and the hackers say they will leak her nude photos within five days.
In August, Watson defended actress Jennifer Lawrence, one of the first victims of 4chan’s nude leaks. She tweeted, “Even worse than seeing women’s privacy violated on social media is reading the accompanying comments that show such a lack of empathy.
The threat perfectly illustrates why we still need feminism.
You can read the full text of the speech here.