Emma Watson's portrayal of the brilliant Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter franchise won the hearts of millions. Now it seems Watson is taking notes from her character's playbook, and channeling Hermione's fierce intelligence to fight online trolls and sexism.
In honor of International Women's Day on Sunday, Watson participated in an hour-long Q&A at Facebook's London Headquarters. When asked about "the Fappening" — the infamous 2014 leaking of female celebrities' private nude photos, of which Watson was a threatened target — Watson noted that efforts to embarrass and silence her failed miserably.
"It's funny because people went, 'Oh, she's going to be disheartened by this,'" Watson stated during the Q&A. "If anything, it made me so much more determined. I was just raging. It made me so angry that I was just like, 'This is why I have to be doing this!' If they were trying to put me off, it did the opposite."
Watson, who is a United Nations ambassador and figurehead for the HeForShe initiative, touched on an impressive range of topics during the Q&A, including debunking myths about feminism, masculinity standards and the role of chivalry in modern society. But perhaps the most resonant was her thoughtful response to the online harassment she has faced, especially in terms of her feminist activism. The photo threat may have been a hoax, but Watson asserted that the issue ran deeper than a personal violation of privacy.
"I think a lot of people close to me knew gender equality was an issue, but they didn't really think it was that urgent," Watson said. "When they saw that the minute I stepped up and talked about women's rights I was immediately threatened — in less than 12 hours I was receiving threats — I think [men] were really shocked. ... Women are receiving threats in all sorts of different forms — that was just one specific one."
Watson's voice contributes to a growing chorus of women speaking out about how online harassment is indicative of not only the persistent inequality women face, but also the horrendous backlash they receive when they question this status quo. Her experience echoes that of feminist gaming icons like Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian, who have been notoriously harassed and even faced death threats for publicly advocating for gender equality. Feminist writers of all kinds also face consistent backlash for their attempts to question the sexism online.
While one might think that such harassment would dissuade women from publicly advocating for their beliefs, women like Watson show that it can have the opposite effect.
Watson also addressed why the mission her harassers seek to undermine is so important. Feminism is not about hate, Watson said, but rather is "something incredibly positive ... People have come back to what the actual definition means, which is 'equality politically, culturally, socially, economically.' That's it. That simple."
Her mission may be simple, but clearly the road to achieving it is wrought with obstacles of ignorance. Thankfully, the feminist movement has spokespeople like Watson — as well as the countless individuals waging wars daily on their own platforms, online and off — to persist in the face of such adversity.
h/t The Daily Beast