What’s So Scary About Feminism?

Photo Courtesy of  vergemagazine.co.uk | Emma Watson speaks at an event promoting the UN Women’s HeForShe campaign.

Photo Courtesy of vergemagazine.co.uk | Emma Watson speaks at an event promoting the UN Women’s HeForShe campaign.

This week in an interview for “Porter” magazine, Emma Watson revealed she was dissuaded from including the word “feminism” in her speech on promoting gender equality for the UN Women’s HeForShe campaign, launched in Sept. 2014. While her speech went viral, apparently not everyone agreed with her words of choice – namely, the organizers of the campaign itself.

“I was encouraged not to use the word ‘feminism’ because people felt it was alienating and separating, and the whole idea of the speech was to include as many people as possible,” Watson said. “But I thought long and hard and ultimately felt it was just the right thing to do. If women are terrified to use the word, how on earth are men supposed to start using it?”

There is, perhaps, no word more misunderstood than “feminism.” Plagued with stereotypes such as those of ugly women who never shave, burn their bras in their spare time and foam at the mouth in their pursuit for the eradication of man, to say the term “feminism” has an undeserved bad reputation is an understatement. The word is also apparently equivalent to a contagious rash – no one wants anything to do with it.

Don’t believe me?  Consider the incredible effort Watson’s fellow Hollywood actresses have put into distancing themselves from any mention of the word. We have Oscar-winning French actress Marion Cotillard saying, “We need to fight for women’s rights, but I don’t want to separate women from men…Sometimes in the word ‘feminism’ there’s too much separation.” Lady, are you kidding me? Then, there’s “The Fault in Our Stars” actress Shailene Woodley who, when asked if she considered herself a feminist, replied, “No, because I love men, and I think the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from power’ is never going to work because you need balance.” I’m sensing a theme here (hint: a theme of complete and utter cluelessness).

But wait! There’s more! The one and only Meryl Streep – three-time Academy Award winner, who campaigned to Congress for the creation of an equal rights amendment, who called Walt Disney a “gender bigot,” who, you might assume, can do no wrong – said earlier this year, “I am a humanist, I am for a nice easy balance.” Let us take a moment for that to sink in. Oh, Meryl. What have they done to you?

If there is one place to shout “feminism,” I can think of no better location than from the rooftops of Hollywood. There’s so much material: the sexist representations of women in front of the camera – not to mention the lack of women behind it – the unequal pay, the lack of roles for older women, for example. Yet, here is the stark reality: everyone is scared to say the “‘f’ word!” Rather than actually attempting to promote and raise awareness of the very message of gender equality that feminism touts, everyone has instead chosen to analyze, critique and perpetuate ill-informed stereotypes of this particular word. Precisely because of this lack of understanding, the word feminism has never been more important.  When Watson decided to use this word – going against the higher-ups who were worried it might throw people off – she reclaimed it for what it was, deciding to fight back against misconceptions that detract from the actual purpose of the term: the pursuit for gender equality.

In a time when feminist has become a dirty word, Watson’s decision to include it in her speech will surely have positive effects, primarily by encouraging her young fans to become involved in advocating for women’s rights and gender equality – and finally having a clear understanding of what feminism actually means. As Watson said in her speech for the HeforShe campaign, “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. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop.”  Even Hermione couldn’t have said it better! Next order of business: perhaps Watson could have a talk with Meryl Streep to provide some much-needed clarification and guidance.

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4 Comments

  1. Emma is a hottie.

  2. Pingback: Writing Clips | the writing words

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