Emma Watson gives impassioned speech calling for men to help end gender inequality

23rd September 2014 at 13:01


She shot to fame fighting monsters and wizards while playing Hermione Granger in the hugely popular Harry Potter films, but Emma Watson is now battling a much tougher opponent in the shape of gender inequality.  

Earlier this week, Ms Watson gave a powerful and impassioned speech on the issue, questioning how equality between the sexes could ever be achieved if only half the population is fighting the cause.

The star was speaking at an event in New York in her role as the UN’s Women's Goodwill Ambassador to launch the UN’s new “HeForShe” campaign which aims to enlist more men in the battle for gender equality..

She said that in her ambassadorial role, she had found that talking about feminism had too often become synonymous with “man-hating”, something that needed to stop if there were to be equal rights between the sexes. 

“For the record, the definition of feminism is that men and women have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes,” she told the audience on Saturday.

The actor said she first encountered gender bias when she was just 8 years old, describing how she would be labelled “bossy” for wanting to direct plays she would put on for her parents, whereas the boys were not.

She continued: “When I was 14, I started to be sexualised by certain elements of the media. When I was 15, my girl friends started dropping out of sports because they didn’t want to appear muscly. When at 18, my male friends were unable to express their feelings. I decided that I was a feminist.”

Ms Watson stated that gender equality had not been achieved in any country, and said the problem was just as much one for men as for women.

“Men, I would I like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation,” she said. “Gender equality is your issue too.

“Because to date, I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent being valued less by society despite my needing his presence as a child as much as my mother’s.

“I’ve seen young men suffering from mental illness, unable to ask for help for fear it would make them look less of a man. In fact, in the UK, suicide is the biggest killer of men between 20-49; eclipsing road accidents, cancer and coronary heart disease. I’ve seen men made fragile and insecure by a distorted sense of what constitutes male success. Men don’t have the benefits of equality either.”

Ms Watson added that UN projections estimate that it will take 95 years to achieve gender equality unless there is change, and by 2020 around 140,000 girls will be forced into child marriage.

The HeForShe campaign was supported by other big name starts such as Matt Damon, Patrick Stewart, Antonio Banderas and Kiefer Sutherland.



1. What do you know about feminism and the feminist movement?
2. Do you agree with any of the points in Emma Watson’s speech? Explain why.
3. Why do you think the campaign is looking to attract male advocacy for feminism?
4. Do you think gender inequality will be an issue in the future? Justify your answer.

Introducing feminism
A range of activities, statistics and conundrums designed to give students an insight into the feminist movement.


Challenge the media
This booklet from Discover Human Rights contains activities and information on raising awareness of the sexualisation of girls and women.

Teach students about sexism in society and take a look at gender roles from a religious perspective.

Women’s rights
An introductory lesson looking at equality, suffrage and women’s rights.


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