Actress and United Nations Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson gave a powerful speech on gender equality at the U.N. on Saturday, helping to launch her new initiative, HeForShe.
The campaign urges men to take a stand against gender inequality of all types. The Harry Potter and Bling Ring actress’s speech was attended by Kiefer Sutherland and Forest Whitaker, among many others, E! Online reports.
Also present were United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who invoked Watson’s most famous role while praising the star’s efforts to advance the cause of equality. “She’s been using her magic wand in her movie. I hope she will use [her] magic want to stop violence against women,” he said, according to E! Online.
The speech touched on many issues, including the confusion over the word feminism.
“I was appointed as Goodwill Ambassador for U.N. Women six months ago and the more I’ve spoken about feminism, the more I have realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop.”
“Feminism,” Watson continued, “is, by definition, 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.”
Watson also spoke about how women “are choosing not to identify as feminists” and the word’s apparent toxicity. She remarked, “Apparently, I am among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, ‘too aggressive,’ isolating and anti-men, unattractive, even. Why has the word become such an uncomfortable one?”
Seeking to include men in her campaign, Watson spoke about how gender inequality can negatively affect men as much as women.
“Gender equality is your issue too. Because to date, I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent being valued less by society despite my needing his presence, as a child, as much as my mother’s. I’ve seen young men suffering from mental illness, unable to ask for help, for fear it would make them less of a men—or less of a man. In fact, in the U.K., suicide is the biggest killer of men, between 20 to 49, eclipsing road accidents, cancer and coronary heart disease. I’ve seen men made fragile and insecure by a distorted sense of what constitutes male success. Men don’t have the benefits of equality, either.”
Watson acknowledged that some people hearing her speech may wonder, “Who is this Harry Potter girl? What is she doing at the U.N.?”
“It’s a really good question,” Watson said. “I’ve been asking myself at the same thing. All I know is that I care about this problem and I want to make it better. And having seen what I’ve seen and given the chance, I feel my responsibility to say something. Statesman Edmund Burke said all that is needed for the forces of evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing.”