Emma Watson For President of the World

Emma Watson’s speech earlier this week at the United Nations on gender equality gave me chills – and I didn’t even watch the video of it. Merely reading the text of her speech made me feel so inspired and empowered, and it also prompted me to do a little more investigating on the economic, political, and sociological treatment of women around the world.

“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,” Emma noted. “If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop.”

She almost rebranded the term “feminism,” and pondered why it has taken on such a derogatory meaning in the past. She literally could not have said it any better.

“[M]y recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word,” she said. “Apparently I am among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating, anti-men and, unattractive. Why is the word such an uncomfortable one?”

Emma challenged society’s weariness of feminism with the following statement, which just blew me away because it was so incredibly articulate:

“These rights I consider to be human rights but I am one of the lucky ones. My life is a sheer privilege because my parents didn’t love me less because I was born a daughter. My school did not limit me because I was a girl. My mentors didn’t assume I would go less far because I might give birth to a child one day. These influencers were the gender equality ambassadors that made who I am today. They may not know it, but they are the inadvertent feminists who are. And we need more of those.  And if you still hate the word—it is not the word that is important but the idea and the ambition behind it. Because not all women have been afforded the same rights that I have. In fact, statistically, very few have been.”

Gender inequality goes beyond the mere idea of feminism. When men and women are not treated equally, society as a whole suffers. The UN has published tons of statistics on women’s rights and roles worldwide.

  • Women make up only 1/5 of the available legislative/parliamentary seats around the globe. Only 9 women serve as Head of State (out of almost 200 countries), while 15 serve as Head of Government.
  • The wage differential between women and men varies from country to country. In some countries, women make nearly 1/3 less than men, while in others they make 10 percent less than men. Either way, that’s definitely not equal pay for equal work.
  • “Women farmers tend to produce 20 to 30 per cent less than their male counterparts because they have less access to vital inputs such as seeds, fertilizers and tools.”
    • However, if women were given equal access to these inputs, agricultural output would rise 4 percent, which would in turn decrease the number of hungry people around the globe by nearly 20 percent.
  • Women are four times more likely to be the target of intimidation tactics in political elections.
  • Women make up only 10 percent of police forces around the world. However, research shows that women are much more likely to report sexual assaults in areas where there is a greater presence of women in the police force.

There are a handful of treaties spelling out women’s rights, ranging from the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women to the 2000 UN Security Council Resolution (technically not a treaty, but noteworthy nonetheless) on Women, Peace and Security. Time and time again, these documents have recognized women’s rights to be treated equal, but have also recognized that women and children are more likely to be denied these rights – particularly in times of conflict.

Part of the reason why I’m so impressed with Emma’s words is that I’m fairly certain she wrote them herself. If it was another actress or singer, I am almost certain (based on my own experience in the foreign policy field) that they would have had a team from the UN, a government agency, or an NGO actually draft it. But Emma is an Ivy-League educated, A-Levels butt kicker, and she has always proved herself to be incredibly articulate and passionate about human rights.

I know Emma’s British, but can we please make her head of a high-level government office in charge of gender issues? Although I suppose asking her to work for the UN is best – she can spread her brilliance around the globe and help ladies everywhere.

If you haven’t had a chance to hear or read the speech in full, check out the video here and the text here.