Emma Watson, the actress who played Hermione in the Harry Potter movies, recently gave a rousing speech at the UN. This poised and eloquent young woman called for men and women to join together in the struggle for women’s rights. What does her speech mean for the future of feminism?
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Emma Watson, the actress who played Hermione in the Harry Potter movies, recently gave a rousing speech at the UN. This poised and eloquent young woman called for men and women to join together in the struggle for women’s rights. What does her speech mean for the future of feminism? That’s coming up next on the Factual Feminist. Emma Watson, who now serves as the U.N. Women Goodwill Ambassador, received thunderous applause for her speech before the General Assembly. Some are hailing her oration as a huge win for today’s establishment feminism. I am not so sure. I think her talk was successful precisely because she showed the way to a badly needed alternative. She won hearts and minds because she focused on equality. But she correctly notes that many reject the feminist label even though it stands for simple equality. According to a 2014 poll, only about 25 percent of Americans call themselves feminists. Ms. Watson suggests that feminism has lost popularity because many associate it with an aggressive, isolating, man-hating philosophy. She may be suggesting that the stereotype about man hating is baseless. But Ms. Watson just graduated from Brown University, and cannot have escaped some of the excesses of today’s campus feminism, with its penchant for trigger warnings, grievance collecting, and demonizing men—even statues of men. Just look at how these gender activists behaved last year at the University of Toronto when writer Warren Farrell was invited to speak about men’s health. And, not to play the victim, but look what a Tumblr feminist did to my book on the plight of boys and young men. Feminism is supposed to be about liberation, freedom, self-determination—not calling perfectly nice men “rape-apologist scum,” burning books, or treating masculinity as a pathology in need of a cure. Though Ms. Watson’s speech was marred by some formulaic feminist talking points, she still managed to point the way to a saner style of feminism. Now, I cringed a bit when she lamented the alleged injustice of being called "bossy" when she was a little girl. I was sorry to hear her recite a version of the massively discredited gender wage gap” injustice” and say that men are “imprisoned” by masculinity. I also wasn’t pleased to see her repeat a mistake of undergrad orators everywhere. This faux quote turns up everywhere, but no one can find the source. As the Factual Feminist, it is my duty to say Burke was Irish not English, and he did not say that. Its an urban legend. But I forgive her for the cliches and talking points, because she did a good job focusing on the genuine plight of women living in societies that have not had the benefit of two major waves of female liberation.She made it clear that as a young woman growing up in Britain, she enjoyed the benefits of a mostly gender fair society. She focused attention on the 15.5 million girls who will be married as children, and girls in Africa who are denied the same education as boys. An American women’s movement, focused on helping girls and women across the globe with their struggle for emancipation, would have wide appeal. I suspect that Emma Watson will help lead the movement in that direction. Here is what I most liked about the speech. Though it may not have been her intention, Ms. Watson showed the way to a new kind of gender equity movement: equalism rather than feminism. She invited men to join the movement and launched a “HeForShe” campaign.
Emma Watson and the future of feminism
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