Emma Watson's International Women's Day #HeForShe Q&A — 13 Valuable Takeaways
In celebration of International Women's Day, Emma Watson — aka our feminist hero — decided to host a live Q&A session at Facebook's offices in London on Sunday afternoon. Since she serves as U.N. Women's Goodwill Ambassador, she used the platform to promote the He For She campaign, which encourages men to be just as involved as their female counterparts in the fight for gender equality. During the live stream on her Facebook page (which recently reached more than 30 million likes), she answered questions on topics ranging from global education to the wage gap to intersectionality.
This isn't the first time she schooled us all on the importance of feminism. Back in September, she started such an important conversation with her first U.N. speech. And once again, she dared to say what we're all thinking — or if you weren't thinking it already, it was exactly what you NEEDED to hear. This speech was especially special, given the fact that it was hosted on International Women's Day.
While you should totally go check out the entire speech, below are excerpts and lessons that will inspire you to keep fighting for gender equality, or to get started if you haven't already! Because really, what are you waiting for?
Gender Inequality Affects Everyone
Right off the bat, Watson was asked what her mission statement was when she gave that first speech at the U.N.
I really wanted to communicate that gender equality historically has predominately been a women’s movement for women. But the impact of gender equality and how it’s affecting men hasn’t been addressed.
Our society in general devalues the "she," and as a result, there’s this imbalance that’s hindering our progress.
She also talked about how overwhelming (in a good way) the responses to #HeForShe have been — from receiving a letter from he Archbishop of Canterbury to positive reactions from her little brother and his friends.
Little Actions Make A Big Difference
At this year's Oscars, Steve Carell wore cufflinks promoting He For She. (He's just one of many male celebs on board with the campaign!) Here was Watson's reaction:
I had no idea that he was going to do that. It’s just so overwhelming and humbling when men want to show their support like that. It does spread awareness and it does make a difference. Even if two people that night asked him [about his cufflinks], and he’s like, “I’m taking a stand for gender equality.” That’s huge.
As she frequently pointed out during the Q&A, little gestures make a big difference.
Feminism Isn't A Scary Word
Although the phrase tends to have a (mistakenly) negative connotation, Watson cleared up that it has nothing to do with hating men. Instead, she explained:
I’m aware of a lot more male feminists than I was a few years ago and it’s really heartening. People have come back to what the actual definition means. Which is equality politically, culturally, socially, and economically.
Men think it’s a women’s word and it’s just for women, but really it just means you stand for equality. If you stand for equality, you are a feminist. Sorry to tell you!
What You're Doing Is More Important Than How You Look
When asked who her role model was, Emma Watson said her own mother. Her strength as a single parent inspired her, in addition to teaching valuable lessons along the way.
She instilled in me, particularly in my teenage years — when I was feeling confused about what my purpose was — that what I was thinking and what I was doing and what I was saying was infinitely more important than my physical appearance, even when the world was telling me the contrary.
Oh, and she also added that her mom was proud when she received her first detention for failing a Latin exam. "She wanted me to be my own person and a bit of rebellion was a good thing."
Young Girls Should Be Encouraged More
After a fan wrote to Emma Watson about how her dad said she couldn't be an engineer, Watson responded by telling the girl to prove him wrong. She then talked about the gap in women pursuing careers in male-dominated fields.
It starts really young with girls and boys being told what they have to be and it can be really damaging... In math and science and engineering, girls just aren’t doing as well.
And the biggest reason for that is these are generally associated to be male subjects. So young girls feel as if they did those subjects they’d be less attractive. That’s why I want to dispel that myth. It doesn't need to be like that.
Threats Toward Women Are Unacceptable
Remember when hackers threatened to release naked photos of Watson soon after her first U.N. speech? She said she didn't want to have to bring it up, but it taught a valuable lesson.
I knew it was a hoax and the pictures didn’t exist. A lot of people close to me knew gender equality was an issue and didnt think it was that urgent... But when they saw that the minute I stepped up and talked about women’s rights, I was immediately threatened, they were really shocked. It was a wake up call that this is a real thing that is happening now. Women are receiving threats in all different forms.
Everyone Deserves An Education
Another important subject? The gender gap in global education. Here's what Watson had to say:
If someone had told me that my brother could go to school but I couldn't because I was a girl, I would be so hurt and baffled. The fact that this is still going on is something that really needs to be addressed. How and why are you not recognizing the potential of that girl? Why are you not recognizing what she can bring to the table?
The Film Industry Needs More Women's Voices
When asked about the film industry, Watson deemed the lack of female representation to be a big problem.
Currently, females comprise 7% of directors, 19.7% of writers, and 2.2% of producers in the film industry. When you have a female writer, there’s a higher representation of women. So that’s a pretty huge problem. Why are women not telling their own stories?
She acknowledged that awareness was raised surrounding this year's Oscars, but more needs to be done.
LGBT Involvement Is Essential To #HeForShe
A question was raised about LGBT involvement in the He For She campaign and Watson had a great response.
My specific mandate is to advocate for women and girls, but I also understand that these oppressions are interlocking and that intersectionality is a really important word here. We need to be supporting each other 100%. I hope the LGBT community does feel included and that this is their movement, it definitely is.
Chivalry Isn't Dead
Of course another common misconception about feminism is that you can't hold the door open for a feminist. But Watson dispelled that myth and talked about chivalry being an equal venture.
I love having the door opened for me. Isn’t that just polite? Isn't that just a nice thing to do? I love being taken to dinner, it’s so great. But I think the key is, would you then mind if I opened the door for you?
Misconceptions About Masculinity Are Damaging
Watson believes we need to acknowledge the violence, abuse, and oppression that men face as well. She talked about the pressure men deal with to behave masculinely and why it's unfair.
I’m really genuinely disturbed by this idea that men can’t cry, and they can’t express themselves and can’t talk about how they feel. I think that’s the saddest thing in the world. Being passionate, being emotional — it’s not what makes you a girl. It’s what makes you human.
Anyone Can Get Involved In This Movement
Whether signing the petition at HeForShe.org (seriously, go do it!) or speaking up when you see discrimination, the littlest actions can make the biggest difference in the fight for gender equality. If you don't think so, Watson has a perfect response.
Don’t ever hear in your own head, “Who am I to say something?” You are human. You are a person. You can 100% change the world.
Change Is Needed NOW
In case you're wondering whether you should get involved, this makes things pretty clear:
There’s a lack of a sense of urgency around this issue. We’re not really understanding what a huge impact this has all over the world. It’s one of the biggest contributors to poverty, to violence, to discrimination. It hinders development and progress all over the world.
Images: Getty Images