By Tracey Mendrek, Executive Vice President
Something happened on the way to the United Nations last week. A young woman, best know as Hermione, to millions of Harry Potter fans, showed composure, intelligence and maturity when she proclaimed she was a feminist.
Ms. Watson took this bold step during a speech given at the UN in her role as UN Women’s Global Goodwill Ambassador. For 13 minutes, without reading from notes or a teleprompter, she implored all citizens of the world to view feminism as a movement of women and men to end gender inequality.
Point in fact: this is not the women’s liberation movement definition of feminism, led by Gloria Steinem in the 60’s and 70’s. This is feminism as defined by a global community, where a speech can trend on twitter, be posted on YouTube by the United Nations and spread around the world in moments.
Ms. Watson identifies something many women have known for some time, that feminism as it has evolved, has become harsh and strident, giving women and men only one option: either you are or you aren’t. Women, who couldn’t embrace all elements of feminism were shunned and belittled for not being all in. And thus young women turned away from their mother’s feminism, not understanding how much that particular brand of feminism has changed the world.
This speech has compelled people to talk about feminism in a new way. Both women and men have weighed in and continued the discussion. At a time when gender inequality is the subtext of professional athletics, Ms. Watson reminds the assembly “…if men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled.”
Whether you believe in all the elements of HeforShe, a solidarity movement for gender equality, don’t stand on the sidelines. The mere fact that Ms. Watson addressing a gathering of men and women at the United Nations commanded coverage by CNN, Wall Street Journal, MTV, euronews and countless others indicates how far feminism has pushed the conversation. Ask yourself, “If not me, who? If not now, when?”