Emma Watson May Have Just Changed My Life

Emma Watson doesn't know. She does not even know. I didn't even know. I mean I knew she, or more like her character Hermione, was a big inspiration to me in middle school, but I had no idea that she would inspire me well into my twenties. But here I am, watching her speech at as the UN Goodwill Ambassador (and late to the party might I add), moved by everything she's saying. At the 4:20 mark, I had to hold back tears and struggled to do so until the end of the speech.

"...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 that I would go less far because I might give birth to a child one day."

At this, my entire expression shifted. I had previously been watching with slightly detached interest, watching because I knew I should and because of course it matters. But that statement woke me up. I was startled to hear something that applied directly to my life. I know, feminism or any conversation about women's rights applies directly to me because, hello, I'm a woman (or a human, some might argue). But more so than that, that statement was my life. Never did I once feel less than unconditionally loved by my parents; in fact, sometimes I think my dad loves me more because his daughter is just as strong and accomplished as he'd hoped despite the societal roadblocks of being a girl. I've never felt discouraged by school or mentors to achieve as much as possible, being frequently pushed by anyone who saw my potential. I am one of the lucky ones.

We talk about white entitlement and male entitlement, and those are real things, for sure. But sometimes I wonder, what kind of entitlement do I carry around as a woman? Surely, the fact that I never even realized how blessed I am to have the unconditional love of a parent, support of a school system and encouragement of mentors, is an indication that I'm blessed. Is that American entitlement? New millennial entitlement? I'm not sure what to title it, but I know it's there.

And here's the thing. I spent so long myself not a feminist because of the connotations the word has taken on, and refusing to acknowledge the disparity because to me it felt like saying "yes we need equality" is the same as saying "yes, I am inherently not equal to you, man." I admit that I sometimes subscribed to the line of thought that imagined feminists as man-hating women, burning their bras and living in pant suits just because. But now... I don't know. I just don't know.

I do know that all of this matters. It really matters. And it is so, so important. Not only for women but for men as well. Because it's not just about women's rights. It's about gender equality, and perhaps even living life outside of a gender. Feeling things and expressing things without regard to our genders.

"Men, I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation." She then goes on to paint the picture of gender inequality for men in such strong imagery that I almost broke my heart. We are all victims of gender stereotypes and as an extension, we treat each other badly in an attempt to stake claim to our (wo)manhood. A man may treat a woman badly to assert his manhood. A woman, who otherwise doesn't feel 'cut out' to be a mother, feels obligated to bare children to assert her womanhood. And meanwhile, all any of us want to do is be happy within our own parameters, by our own definitions.

Is this part and parcel to feminism? Does it fit under the spectrum of that one word? I don't know. But two words: I'm in :)

Have you heard this speech? If not, check it out below. Let me know what you think!

Also, I wrote a post over at Brown Girl Bloggers that I'm really excited about, so pop over there and say hi!