Emma Watson Is Sorry to Tell You, but You’re Probably a Feminist

The U.N. Women goodwill ambassador gave a live talk about combating gender inequality and why the f-word gets a bad rap.
Emma Watson. (Photo: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images)
Mar 8, 2015· 2 MIN READ
Jennifer Swann is TakePart’s culture and lifestyle reporter.

There are few f-words more widely misunderstood than this one: feminism.

Comedian Aziz Ansari’s stand-up routine went viral when he implied that people are afraid to use the word because they think someone’s going to start yelling at them about it. “If you look up ‘feminist’ in the dictionary,” he said, “it’s just someone who believes men and women have equal rights.”

The actor Emma Watson apparently couldn’t agree more. She talked about feminism, gender equality, and why men need to get involved in the so-called women’s movement during a live video interview on Sunday, streamed from Facebook’s London offices.

“I think men think it’s a women’s word, that it’s only for women,” Watson, the 24-year-old Harry Potter actor turned U.N. Women goodwill ambassador, told BBC radio personality Greg James. “It really just means that you believe in equality. And if you stand for equality, then you’re a feminist, I’m sorry to tell you.”

Timed to International Women’s Day, the interview was organized in support of Watson’s "He for She" initiative, which she helped launch last fall in an attempt to rebrand feminism and gender equality as a human rights issue rather than one only championed by women.

“Gender equality historically has been predominantly a women’s movement for women,” Watson said Sunday, “but I think the impact of gender inequality and how it’s actually been affecting men hasn’t really been addressed,” She recalled that the topic was the focus of her much-publicized speech last fall at U.N. headquarters, which she described as one of the most surreal moments of her life.

How can men help fight for women’s rights? “Even the small gestures to the really big ones, it all changes and impacts somebody else’s life,” Watson said, encouraging men to visit the "He for She" website to take the pledge against violence and discrimination faced by women and girls. To date, more than a quarter of a million men in dozens of countries have taken the pledge.

Hollywood is paying attention: Oscar-nominated actor Steve Carell made a gesture toward gender equality when he sported the "He for She" logo on his cuff links at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony, an event marked by another, far less subtle push for gender equality: Oscar winner Patricia Arquette’s acceptance speech championing equal pay for women.

Watson’s interview came just two days before "He for She" was scheduled to announce the remaining participants in its "Impact 10x10x10" pilot program, a one-year initiative aimed at equipping governments, corporations, and academic institutions with the resources to empower women around the world. The first six recipients—Sweden, the Netherlands, and Sierra Leone, along with Tupperware, Unilever, and PricewaterhouseCoopers—were announced during the program’s January launch.

In the meantime, Watson says things are slowly changing, not just when it comes to advancing the conversation about gender equality, but also demystifying the definition of feminism. “I’m aware of a lot more male feminists now than I was a few years ago, and it’s really heartening,” she said. “People have come back to what the actual definition means, which is equality politically, culturally, socially, economically. That’s it. That simple.”