Harry Potter star Emma Watson has launched a global campaign to mobilize one billion men and boys as advocates of change in ending inequalities that women and girls face globally.
Speaking at the launch of the UN Women campaign, called “HeForShe”, the British actress, who made a reported £10m playing Hermione Grainger, said:
“It is time that we all see gender as a spectrum instead of two sets of opposing ideals. We should stop defining each other by what we are not, and start defining ourselves by who we are.”
According to Watson, men are restricted by socially constructed concepts of masculinity. “Men don’t have the benefits of equality, either,” she said. “We don’t want to talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see that they are”.
The 26-year-old, who became a UN Women, goodwill ambassador in July, said she has seen young men who are suffering from illness being “unable to ask for help for fear it will make them less of a man” and the notion of “male success” is making men “fragile and insecure”.
Watson spoke briefly about her father, who became a weekend dad when he separated from her mother. “I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent being valued less by society,” she said.
The actress claimed that liberating men from narrow concepts of manhood and masculinity would benefit women. “If men don’t have to be aggressive, women won’t be compelled to be submissive, she said. “If men don’t need to control, women won’t have to be controlled.”
Speaking of her experience as a feminist, Watson said that “fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating”. Her definition of feminism, she said, is “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of political, economic and social equality of the sexes”.
Watson told the audience, which included the UN secretary general, Ban Ki Moon, that “both men and women should feel free to be sensitive [and] “both men and women should feel free to be strong”.
She added, “we can all be freer and this is what HeForShe is about, it’s about freedom”.
The aim of the UN’s HeForShe campaign is to get one billion men and boys around the globe to “commit to take action against all forms of violence and discrimination faced by women and girls”.
“I want men to take up this mantle so their daughters, sisters and mothers can be free from prejudice but also so their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human, too and in doing so, be a more true and complete version of themselves,” said Watson.
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