Emma Watson, HeForShe Launch Campaign, 2014

Emma Watson

Actor and Activist

The British actor Emma Watson became an international sensation when, at the age of eleven, she starred as the precocious Hermione Granger in the first of the Harry Potter films in 2001. Previously unknown (she had only acted in school plays up to that point), she embarked on a career in the public eye, making seven more blockbuster films adapted from the fantastical novels penned by J. K. Rowling (see here). Towards the completion of the last Potter film, she turned her attention towards education – she graduated from Brown University, in Rhode Island, in 2014 – and women’s rights. As a Global Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women, she has travelled to Uruguay, Malawi, and elsewhere to speak on women’s empowerment issues. In 2016, she started a popular online feminist book club, ‘Our Shared Shelf’, which gained 100,000 members in a few weeks. A year earlier, Time magazine named her to the TIME 100 list of the world’s most influential people, largely in reference to her work in support of women’s and girls’ rights.

In 2014, at the United Nations in New York City, Watson announced the launch of HeforShe, a campaign which aims to make men a bigger part of the conversation surrounding gender equality. Her speech, in which she spoke about the negative impact of gender stereotypes on both men and women, quickly went viral. In a moving passage, she referenced Hillary Clinton’s 1995 speech (see here), which declared women’s rights as human rights and noted how much work remained. The word ‘feminism’, she explained, is too often interpreted as ‘man-hating’. Yet men are also harmed by an unequal world. By framing the movement as an inclusive one in which people of all genders have a stake, HeforShe seeks to create new allies and feminist champions across all parts of society.

HeForShe Launch Campaign 2014

We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see 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.

… 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?

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?

Emma Watson