Lady Business: Emma Watson’s HeForShe campaign

Sara French has come to realize the impact of Emma Watson as a role model in her life and Watson’s contributions to modern feminism. Photo Courtesy of Virginia Johnson.
Sara French has come to realize the impact of Emma Watson as a role model in her life and Watson’s contributions to modern feminism. Photo Courtesy of Virginia Johnson.

Sometimes it’s hard to find the perfect role model. For me, it is an individual who inspires me and reminds me to be the best person I’m capable of being. My most influential role model at the moment is Emma Watson for several reasons that have accumulating since my childhood. I didn’t realize until recently, though, that she left such a strong impression on me as a young girl.

When I was younger, reading books and watching movies encompassed a large portion of family bonding time. I found the majority of myself as well as who I wanted to become through literature and film adaptations of my favorite stories— the ones filled with adventure and strong characters I could relate to or wanted to emulate. I strongly believe that a good book and, more importantly, good characters follow us past childhood.

My earliest memory of a person I looked up to was the character Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. She was this strong, witty girl who answered all the questions and didn’t care what other thought of her boldness. And, while it was mentioned she had frizzy hair, there was no real emphasis on her looks. The focus on Granger as a character was directed towards her intelligence, loyalty and bravery.

I was one of the lucky students whose school took us to movies and plays to supplement in-class education. I first took notice of Emma Watson when she played the role of Hermione Granger in the film adaptation for the series’ first installment. I was able to see the witty, headstrong girl I had read about come to life on screen. The series grew with me from that point on, and I continued to have this strong female role model in the form of Watson.

Watson continued to inspire me beyond her role as my favorite childhood character. As an adult outside of the realm of acting, she became more inspirational to me as a person. Her active support of feminism, gender equality and education for women has led to being appointed and accepting the role as a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. Utilizing this position, she started something really amazing with a speech she gave Sept. 20 about her HeForShe campaign. I love this campaign and highly recommend reading a transcript or watching a video of the speech she gave in hopes of enlisting feminists to join this campaign for equality and setting the record straight for “feminism”.

The types of “feminism” that people are exposed to are numerous, and not all are what my definition of feminism would be. As I said earlier, finding a role model is hard; finding a good feminist role model or philosophy is even harder. Watson addresses this problematic and confusing dilemma with the contemporary feminist movement. There are a few points she emphasizes that I whole-heartedly agree with.

The first was the definition of feminism: “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.”

This point is lost among so many people. Feminism is often described as synonymous with “man-hating.” The HeForShe campaign promotes the active encouragement of men to join the feminist initiative for making worldwide equality a reality. She notes that feminism is an issue for both women and men; both are victims of gender roles and other unjust situations enforced by outdated societal norms.

It takes a charismatic and thoughtful leader to clear up a cultural issue that affects everyone, but this work is rarely acknowledged. I cannot begin to describe the many levels that Watson covers when addressing the stigma surrounding the word “feminism.” I can only stress that gender equality is a human rights issue and that inequality today harms both sexes in many different ways. Oppression occurs on both sides of the spectrum, and this will continue to occur until equality is achieved.

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