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Emma Watson He For She Speech A comparative

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Response paper to Emma Watson HeForShe Campaign speech at the UN: A comparative to “An Open Letter to Emma Watson by Malvika Jaganmohan & Kamelyia Akkouche On the 20th of September, Emma Watson, actress renowned for playing Hermoine Granger in the Harry Potter series and now a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador gave a speech at the United Nations advocating for women’s rights and promoting the United Nations new HeForShe initiative. While she mad multiple valid points during her speech, there are many things mentioned that made me raise my eyebrow and wonder if the speech was really much of a game changer or just an okay speech that was overhyped by different media outlets. Prior to writing this response paper, I read a multitude of other responses from other feminists as to what they thought of the speech. One that stuck out to me was “An Open Letter to Emma Watson” by my good friend Malvika Jaganmohan and used it as a reference point as another feminist voice vs. my own.

Ms. Watson discussed everything from Feminism, to her privilege, to inviting men to be part of the discourse when discussing Women’s rights. Again, many things she discussed had the good, the bad and the ugly. Many could argue that Emma gave a watered down speech as to what being a feminist was, what feminist ideals were and that her speech was geared towards appeasing men and I could see why that would make many feminists angry. “This is the first campaign of its kind at the UN: we want to try and galvanize as many men and boys as possible to be advocates for gender equality.” (Watson, 2014) While yes, allowing men to be part of the discourse seems like a good idea in theory, but the problem with any gender equality campaign being reliant on the actions of men is the fact that you’re appealing to the exact group of individuals whose sole interest is upholding the status quo. The same status quo that has left many women powerless.

With the terminology as a whole HeForShe, that men in this case are advocates for women can be considered protectionist and the problem with that is it plays right into traditional gender roles that women are dependent on the men’s willingness to allow them progress(Jaganmohan, Akkouche, 2014). I believe the point Emma Watson was trying to make is that men need to look at the current situation, the current system that systematically oppresses women and from there advocate for gender equality. Another prime example where this is viewed is with the LGBTQA community and allies. Where allies are to use their privilege to bring the issues to light to people that may not listen to members of the community per se but the allies shouldn’t be the main focus. Her good intentions fell short. While again, Miss Watson, may have been pressed for time and chose not to divulge into the intricacies of men being part of the discourse. An example where men have been allowed into the discussion would be under female genital circumcision and the Tostan model.

The model showed that when men were part of the discussion, there was a better understanding of why FGM was a completely bad idea. Bringing men into the discussion also allows for education of men regardless of the fact that a lot discussed could be viewed as common sense. . “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.” (Watson 2014) That statement then again has women as an object of male actions instead of proponents of change (Jaganmohan, Akkouche 2014). I feel She instead should have challenged that. She should have instead challenged the idea of women being submissive, and men being aggressive. Why do women have to be submissive for men to be comfortable? Why is there distinct need for a difference in power between the two individuals?

Apparently I am among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating, anti-men and, unattractive. (Watson, 2014) While she probably didn’t mean to pander to men’s fear of feminism, that is unfortunately what she did (Jaganmohan, Akkouche 2014). I feel that she pandered to men’s insecurities of women being strong multi-dimensional characters. Because the idea with most men is if they can pigeonhole a woman as being one dimensional, they don’t have to entirely take women seriously. In the statement above, you have to beg to question, why is it bad for women that are expressive of their situations to be seen as “too strong” what is wrong with that? Too aggressive? These same women have fought for the same platform that Emma Watson has the privilege of occupying (Jaganmohan, Akkouche 2014) . She didn’t stop to think as to why men feel threatened by feminists and completely forgets that feminists care not about making men uncomfortable with the subject material.

Jaganmohan and Akkouche believe the world is uncomfortable because women are directly confronting theiroppressors and this is something I agree with, but, I also do feel that because many men are  completely unaware of the oppression. Years and years of the oppressive behavior has been subconsciously ingrained in them that they view this behavior as the norm. Therefore, when these issues are brought to light so quickly and with such intensity, men choose the defensive and label women “bitches” or “bossy”. What was being done by this speech was slowly easing into feminists ideals at an angle that was comfortable for men. This again allows for the idea where women’s actions are dependent on men’s sensibilities (Jaganmohan, Akkouche). At a point she even mentioned ignoring the word feminist completely if “you still hate the word” forgetting that the word has its own history which I believe is completely problematic for a number of reasons.

If compared to many other words that some people choose to refute today, we could see why that would be something that shouldn’t be done. While the speech was good, because Emma was very careful to not be considered “strong, aggressive or to appear man-hating” the speech could be piled in with the traditional “celebrity feminism” where she could be viewed as trying to maintain a balance between public perception but still yet an activist (Jaganmohan, Akkouche). I agree with the statement whole heartedly, that the speech as a whole in retrospect was pretty weak, but the idea of bringing men into the discourse to educate as well as listen is something that should be looked at and challenged should it not work.


Jaganmohan, M., & Akkouche, K. (2014, September 30). Open Letter to Emma Watson: Your UN address was not a ‘game-changer’ | Beaver Online. Retrieved October 26, 2014, from http://beaveronline.co.uk/dear-emma-watson-your-un-address-was-not-a-game-changer

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