There was absolutely no question this week that I had to dedicate my final ever Kettle social craze column to the total brilliance that is Emma Watson.
I thought this article would take a very positive view on both the gender equality speech itself, and the overwhelming reaction to it. But in light of the news that hackers have been threatening to release nude photos of Ms Watson in response to her speech, I became angry with the unfairness of the world and wanted to run in with all my feminist guns blazing.
However… I’m going to keep this article positive. Why? Because despite the threatening hackers, or even, in spite of them, I believe that Emma Watson will not be silenced.
So if you have been living under a rock this week, here’s the low-down on why Ms Watson has caused ripples across the internet this week.
After graduating from college earlier this year, she was appointed the UN Women’s Global Goodwill Ambassador. She has already been making her mark by cheekily responding to a Turkish politician saying he disapproves of women laughing in public.
— Emma Watson (@EmWatson) August 1, 2014
She also responded to the celebrity photo hack:
Even worse than seeing women’s privacy violated on social media is reading the accompanying comments that show such a lack of empathy.
— Emma Watson (@EmWatson) September 1, 2014
So already I was just a little bit in love with Ms Watson; but the speech she gave at the launch of the HeForShe campaign last week made me fall hook, line and sinker.
HeForShe is a campaign led by UN Women in which men all over the world are being encouraged to speak out against the inequalities faced by women and girls. In her speech, Ms Watson speaks about the current stigma surrounding feminism. She appeared nervous, but her words rang through loud and clear.
“I decided I was a feminist and this seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word. 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?
“I am from Britain and think it is right that as a woman I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should be able to make deicisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decision-making of my country… But sadly I can say that there is no one country in the world where all women can expect to receive these rights.”
As a result, she called for men to play a greater role in ending gender inequality for good: “I am inviting you to step forward, to be seen to speak up, to be the he for she. And to ask yourself if not me, who, if not now, when.”
You can see the full speech below:
With more than three and a half million views on the original video and sending her immediately to the top of Facebook’s trending list, the reaction to Ms Watson’s honest, brave and touching speech was massive. Here is a selection of the top tweets from celebrities:
— Ellie Goulding (@elliegoulding) September 23, 2014
— Simon Pegg (@simonpegg) September 23, 2014
My greatest achievement in parenting so far – the first person in my Facebook friends to link to the Emma Watson speech was my daughter.
— Caitlin Moran (@caitlinmoran) September 24, 2014
— Tom Hiddleston (@twhiddleston) September 24, 2014
— Douglas Booth (@DouglasBooth) September 20, 2014
Everything I found was highlighted with positivity, positivity, positivity everywhere. And then suddenly, my Twitter feed turned, and all I could see was this horrific front page:
— Sky News (@SkyNews) September 22, 2014
Disgusting. It turns out that online trolls on 4Chan have been threatening to leak nude photos of Ms Watson, as well as attempting to get #RIPEmmaWatson trending on Twitter and posting photoshopped pictures of news websites suggesting that she has died.
Of course, these responses have certainly put a negative spin on things, but the way feminists have rallied round to support her is actually extremely promising for the future of feminism.
Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett wrote this in a letter to Emma Watson posted in the New Statesman.
“All I can say Emma, is: f**k them. It makes me furious that these men, these boys, are attempting to grind you down, in the same way that similar men have tirelessly attempted to grind down the emergence of our gender as a viable political threat for generations now.”
Others tweeted their support:
— Mr Smith (@iMinstrel_) September 24, 2014
— Ali Sater (@AliSater) September 24, 2014
— Phil Evans (@TheAstroPhil) September 24, 2014
So sad how Emma Watson’s speech was amazing and then a few days later, she gets attacked online by threats. This is why we need feminism.
— Jenny (@jennylkjh) September 24, 2014
Ms Watson also tweeted again, showing that these bullies will not silence her:
“I hope we can all finally change laws and mentalities in order to establish what is nothing more than common sense.” pic.twitter.com/NtkLpMTUzT
— Emma Watson (@EmWatson) September 23, 2014
The latest news suggests that the nude photo leak may be a hoax to bring down 4Chan, but regardless, this kind of threat demonstrates just why the message Ms Watson is trying to deliver is so important and still, so needed.
I truly hope that the threats do turn out to be a hoax, but even if they don’t, remember this, Em: we’re behind you. It may not be every single person on the planet, but it’s enough that will give your message the momentum it needs, and communicate it to others. Now, let’s continue to kick inequality’s ass.
What did you think of this week’s social craze? Let us know in the comments below.
Photo: Marco Bond / Flickr