During a speech made in New York as part of her role as UN Women Goodwill ambassador, the Harry Potter actress questioned how her objective will ever be reached if only half the population take part.
Her talk came as she launched a new UN campaign called “HeForShe”, which aims to enlist the support of as many men as possible to help achieve equality between the sexes.
“I was appointed six months ago and the 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,” said Watson. “If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop.
“For the record, feminism by definition is: ‘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.’”
The actress also outlined her experience of sexism, which started at the age of eight when she was called “bossy” because she wanted to direct school plays, adding that her male classmates weren’t described in the same way.
“When at 14 I started being sexualized by certain elements of the press,” she said.
“When at 15 my girlfriends started dropping out of their sports teams because they didn’t want to appear ‘muscly’.
“When at 18 my male friends were unable to express their feelings.”
Watson continued that gender equality has not yet been reached in any country, and it never will be so long as “only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation”, going onto to note prejudices that come with being a man.
“Men – I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation,” she said. “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 look less ‘macho’ — in fact in the UK suicide is the biggest killer of men between 20-49; 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.”
Last week, the actress travelled to Uruguay to deliver a petition urging for more women to be employed in politics.
The Independent, Monday 9 March 2015
Emma Watson is hosting a live Q&A on 9 March to address the global issue of gender equality – International Women’s Day- http://ind.pn/1A3oTcI