Gender Equality Is ‘A Human Rights Issue’
Actress Emma Watson gave a speech at the United Nations Headquarters calling on men to fight for gender equality. Reuters
Less than a day after Emma Watson’s plea to engage more men and boys in the fight for gender equality was posted to YouTube, more than 20,000 men around the world have already pledged to take action against gender violence and discrimination. As you might expect, not all countries are pledging equally.
Watson, best known for her role as Hermione Granger in the “Harry Potter” films, gave an impassioned speech Saturday at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, where she announced the launch of a campaign called “HeForShe,” which aims to include men and boys in the global dialogue to end inequalities faced by women and girls.
“[T]he more I have spoken about feminism the more I have realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating,” she said. “If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop.”
Speaking in her role as U.N. Women’s Goodwill Ambassador, which she’s held for six months, Watson called on men around the world to take the following pledge:
“Gender 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.”
The centerpiece of Watson’s speech was the activation of a real-time geotagged map showing the countries in which men who take the pledge are located. The pledge and corresponding map are accessible on the HeForShe website. As of Monday morning, 20,974 men had taken the pledge, with most pledgees coming from English-speaking countries such as the United States (8,125 men), Australia (2,427 men), the U.K. (2,197 men) and Canada (1,380 men).
Some of the countries with the least number of men taking the pledge are also those that typically rank near the bottom of lists that rate countries on women’s rights. Last year, a TrustLaw poll of 370 gender specialists ranked India and Saudi Arabia dead last for women’s rights. (The poll looks at factors like child marriage, slavery and reproductive rights.) In India, 509 men have taken the pledge while in Saudi Arabia only 17 men have.
Given that the map is less than two days old and presently only in English, it’s hardly a complete picture, but as a potential dataset on gender-equality efforts around the world, it’s a telling start. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Saturday that the map has a target of 1 billion people by this time next year.
“HeForShe” is a project of U.N. Women, a United Nations organization that focuses on gender equality. The hashtag #HeForShe trended on Twitter throughout much of the morning on Monday.
At 24, Watson has been famous since 2001, when “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” became the top-grossing film of the year. In her speech Saturday, the former child star also spoke about how she began challenging gender-based assumptions at age 8 and was sexualized by the “certain elements of the press” at age 14. She said she lamented that the word “feminism” has been subverted in some circles to mean “anti-men.”
“I want men to take up this mantle,” she said. “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.”
Read the full text of Watson’s speech here or watch it below.