Emma Watson Has a Simple but Important Message for Men on Gender Equality

"Gender equality is your issue, too."

That was the crux of UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador and British actress Emma Watson's speech at the UN Headquarters in New York this weekend as she delivered a strong message on gender roles and equality and helped launch the new "HeForShe" campaign, Rappler reported. 

The speech was a rallying call for men and boys around the world to join the gender equality movement, asking them to understand that the current way of thinking about this issue is simply misguided and incomplete. To really stir up change, Watson said, we need to attack the problem through a different, clearer lens:

"It is time that we all see gender as a spectrum instead of two sets of opposing ideals. We should stop defining each other by what we are not, and start defining ourselves by who we are."

The HeForShe campaign does exactly that. The campaign's website asks people to commit to the pledge that "[g]ender equality is not only a women's issue, it is a human rights issue that requires my participation. I commit to take action against all forms of violence and discrimination faced by women and girls." Hopefully, by making people realize that this is not a two-sided issue, but one that truly effects everyone, men and boys around the world will step up to the plate and help the cause.

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

Her own experiences: In her speech, Watson also briefly discussed why the issue was so close to her heart. Obviously besides being a women, Watson said that she's seen first hand how "feminism" and its unintentional baggage get lumped into an idea that's somehow negative, but should really bring about the best in people. Watson said:

"Why has [feminist] become such an unpopular [word]? I think it is right I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decisions that affect my life. I think it is right that socially, I am afforded the same respect as men."

A good start: It was only earlier this summer that the Harry Potter actress was named a Goodwill Ambassador, but she's clearly taken the reins of her new role full-throttle and already has dived into a large, international project. The 24-year-old might seem like an unlikely candidate to lead such a major campaign, but her social activism record already speaks for itself. And, importantly, Watson seems to understand the gravity of her role:

"You might think: Who is this Harry Potter girl? What is she doing at the UN? I've been asking myself at the same thing. All I know is that I care about this problem and I want to make this better. And having seen what I've seen and given the chance, I feel my responsibility to say something."

Actually, Emma, it's everyone's responsibility. 

h/t Rappler

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Matt Essert

Matt is the news director at Mic, covering breaking news. He is based in New York and can be reached at matt@mic.com.

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