Emma Watson has been a household name since she first graced our screens as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series. And perhaps, part of her current public work as a feminist stems from these roots. As the brightest witch of her age, Hermione held her own alongside the chosen one Harry Potter and his right hand man Ron Weasley. However, from Hermione’s first scenes on screen, the character has been deemed everything from bossy to a know-it-all. And perhaps she is, but had Ron been the academic or had Harry the voice of reason, it is sure they would be described in kinder terms.
This is often the plight of little girls with strong voices who demand to be heard: they’re told to stop being bossy. For many of us without realising, this is an attempt to quieten their voice motivated by our preconcieved ideas that loud women are bossy. So perhaps, Emma Watson has had a lot of practice in the lead up to her role as UN Women Goodwill Ambassador.
Misogyny is defined as the dislike or contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women and it is the back bone of patriarchal societies worldwide. Did Emma Watson initially set out to fight misogny? I don’t believe so, but in any attempt by women to speak about feminism or to fight on its behalf, misogny plays a key role in the backlash they face. And to those who say this is not the case, the events of recent times while Watson has held the role of Women’s Ambassador prove otherwise.
Initially, Watson became the face of the UN’s ‘He For She’ campaign, which she launched with a speech at the UN in 2014. The aim? To end gender inequality. An aim which would benefit both male and female, an aim which is the basis of what feminism stands for. And yet, feminism is seen as a dirty word and feminists are labelled many things, the most evocative being ‘FemiNazis’. But, the ‘He For She’ campaign aimed to recruit both men and boys into the fight for gender inequality and to eliminate the idea that feminism was solely a women’s issue. Watson and the UN launched the campaign with the understanding that if change was to happen, both genders would have to seek it.
Since then, Watson has continued to speak on the issue, with many of her interviews touching on the topic. She has been unafraid to use her voice to ensure the fight for gender inequality is spoken about and to encourage more people to understand the cause. It is a gross misunderstanding of feminism that has led to further misogyny against the cause and the women who promote it. Tweets such as “Feminism makes women automatically ugly, Emma Watson went from a 10 to a 6 once I heard she was a man eating Feminazi” convey just how absurd people’s views of feminists can be. They are labelled men-haters and radicals by those who refuse to understand that feminism is a movement on behalf of both genders but mainly, for those who do not want to see women as equal to men.
Misogyny goes hand in hand with feminism, and in taking such a public role, Emma Watson opened herself up to the backlash that almost always follows. Recent headlines slammed Watson for claiming to be a feminist and yet, posing in revealing outfits, an accusation that asked, ‘how could one be a feminist if one chooses to expose their body on any level?’ This caused Watson to have to retort, ‘Feminism is about giving women choice […]it’s about freedom, liberation, equality. I don’t know what my tits have to do with it’.
Watson has proved to be a great leader, a strong voice, a strong woman’s voice, and this has led to her being a target. She suffers misogny not because she is a great leader, but clearly because some do not believe she can be such and be a women as well. In recent weeks, she has even had to pursue legal action after facing the threat of private images of her being leaked online by hackers. She, along with countless other celebrity women, face the posibiltiy that personal images may be shared without their consent. While Watson may be labelled by misogynists as man-hating, unattractive and nothing short of a ‘Nazi’ because of her views, men and others who wish to see her silenced, will still seek to take pleasure from her misfortune that her privacy has been breached.
Until feminism is no longer misunderstood, misogyny will have an excuse on which to fester and grow, and even beyond that time there will be those who will refuse out of sheer stubborness to see women as equal. Watson’s public stance against it, a stance which is portrayed with class and self confidence, can only produce more women who no longer wish to be phased by it, and more men who no longer wish to stand for it.
-By Orla Masterson