By Marissa Bean
Feminism is defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.”
This sounds simple enough, right?
Feminism has become one of the most complicated social issues of the last 50 years. This confusion can be attributed to the fact that so many people, men and women alike, don’t really know the meaning of feminism or what it means to be a feminist.
On September 20, Emma Watson, best known for her role as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films, gave a passionate speech to the United Nations on the topic of feminism. Watson is an ambassador for U.N Women.
She admitted in the 18-minute speech that the true definition of feminism has been replaced by a harsh and inaccurate one.
“The more I spoke about feminism, the more I realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating,” Watson said in her speech.
There are many stereotypes about feminists, and being a man-hater is just one. Feminists are often unfairly depicted as ugly, irrationally angry, uninterested in sex, or unable to find a man.
Like most stereotypes, there is little truth to these generalizations. These stereotypes also lead to fear over admitting to being a feminist.
Generalizations about feminism make it difficult for people to understand what issues feminists stand for. Watson included issues like equal pay, a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body, and being involved with the policies affecting women’s health.
In her speech, Watson announced the creation of a campaign called HeForShe. This campaign encourages men to take part in changing gender inequality and discrimination.
As Watson said to men in the speech, “Gender equality is your issue, too.”
She mentioned that fathers are often valued as being less important than mothers, and that too many men don’t get help for mental illness out of fear of judgment.
Within hours of Watson’s speech, social media started buzzing. People from all over the world began talking about the issues discussed, and many celebrities pledged their support. Supporters included Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Simon Pegg, Chris Colfer, Harry Styles, even President and First Lady Obama.
Styles tweeted “I’m supporting @UN_Women and @EmWatson in #HeForShe as should you…” and included a photograph of himself holding a sign that read “#HeForShe.”
Of course, the overwhelming positive response wouldn’t be possible without backlash. One internet group threatened to leak nude photos of Watson in response to her speech, although that threat later proved to be a hoax, according to CNN.
Feminism isn’t a bad word. It isn’t a bad thing. People who reject feminism and are openly critical of it are those who do not understand it. I am not ashamed to admit to being a feminist, because I know what that kind of label truly entails.
More information about the HeForShe campaign can be found at www.heforshe.org.
Marissa Bean is a Comment Contributor.