Not Just a Feminazi

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At the age of 11, Emma Watson went from being an ordinary little girl to a household name. The cause for the transition? Landing the lead role to play the brave, intelligent and adorable best friend, Hermione Granger, to the young wizard, Harry Potter, in the worldwide phenomena that was the series of films based on the best-selling novels. Today, at 26, the talented young actress has evolved into a successful actress and a benevolent activist who is making a mark in the humanitarian world. Shweta Bhatia discovers more

An excerpt from her speech at the United Nations Headquarters: “Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong. It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum, instead of two sets of opposing ideals. If we stop defining each other by what we are not, and start defining ourselves by who we are, we can all be freer, and this is what HeForShe is about. It’s about freedom. I want men to take up this mantle so that their daughters, sisters, and mothers can be free from prejudice, but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too, reclaim those parts of themselves they abandoned, and in doing so, be a more true and complete version of themselves.”

Emma Charlotte Duerre Watson was born on 15 April 1990 in Paris. Her parents, both British
lawyers, divorced when she was five years old and she moved back to England with her mother and brother. As a child, Watson had always displayed talent in the field of arts. At the Stagecoach Theatre Arts School at Oxford, she studied singing, acting and dancing. With her natural instinct for acting, she bagged her many roles in school plays. But it was when she won a poetry competition at the age of seven, that her teachers began telling agents about her, especially when they came looking to cast for an upcoming movie based on the hugely successful first novel of the Harry Potter series.

After auditioning eight times, Watson was chosen by the author, J.K Rowling herself, who was deeply involved in the film process to ensure that it stayed true to the book, to play the part of the smart, bossy best friend and voice of reason, Hermoine Granger. “I was crazy. I did eight auditions and I would literally sit by the telephone in my house and wait for each call,” Watson said. Starting her journey with her two co-stars, who went on to all become good friends, Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint, the trio of child actors became known around the world as the young wizards who fought for good against evil. For the next decade, Watson’s life revolved around the filming of the Potter series. By 2011, she had eight films under her belt with, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, being the last.

But what many don’t know is that at the age of 16, with five Harry Potter films completed, Watson almost considered leaving the franchise due to the delay it was causing to her education. Eventually, Warner Bros agreed to accommodate her pursuit of higher education. It was later that Watson confessed that she was glad to have finished the series, as she would have found it difficult to watch the remaining movies made without her. Though she spent her adolescence on the film set, Watson kept up with her education. She took a year off school to film the final movie of the series but she maintained her commitment to her high school degree and graduated with straight A’s on her A-Levels. After acquiring her high school degree, she enrolled as a freshman at Brown University. She graduated in 2014 with an English Literature degree.

By then, Watson wasn’t just a brilliant actress and student; she was simultaneously making news with her fashion choices. She took her fans by surprise when she cut her long locks and emerged with a pixie hairdo. This and her cutting-edge fashion sense helped her shed the ‘child star’ image from her Potter days. In 2009, it was confirmed that Watson was going to partner with the fashion house, Burberry, as the face of their Autumn/ Winter Campaign, for which she received a six-figure fee. In 2011, she was awarded the Style Icon award and continued her involvement in fashion advertising when she was chosen as the face of Lancôme.

In July 2014, the year she graduated from Brown University, Watson was appointed by the United Nations as their UN Women Goodwill Ambassador to speak out for women’s rights and equality. “Being asked to serve as UN Women Goodwill Ambassador is truly humbling,” said Watson, “The chance to make a real difference is not an opportunity that everyone is given and is one I have no intention of taking lightly. Women’s rights are something so inextricably linked with who I am, so deeply personal and rooted in my life that I can’t imagine an opportunity more exciting. I still have so much to learn, but as I progress I hope to bring more of my individual knowledge, experience and awareness to this role.”

Watson gained a lot of attention when she spoke out often about the lack of equality between women and men in their individual field of work. She was honoured as one of the ‘100 Most Influential People’ by a leading magazine for her HeforShe campaign. The campaign holds men responsible for gender equality as well as women. According to the actress, she believes that the theory of political, economic and social equality of the sexes is what defines feminism. Apart from this, she heavily promotes girls education. She has travelled to Zambia and Bangladesh as part of her role with the UN. She is also an ambassador for Camfed International, which is a crusade to educate girls in rural Africa. The actress has decided to take a year off from making films to learn more about feminism. Critics who opposed her views on subjects such as the Hollywood pay gap label her a ‘feminazi’. “We are not supposed to talk about money, because people will think you’re ‘difficult’ or a ‘diva’. But there’s a willingness now to be like, fine, call me a ‘diva’, call me a ‘feminazi’, call me ‘difficult’, call me a ‘First World feminist’, call me whatever you want, it’s not going to stop me from trying to do the right thing and make sure the right thing happens because it doesn’t just affect me,” Emma said in an interview.

When Watson gave her speech at the UN Headquarters in support of her HeforShe campaign, the video went viral and created a huge impact. While one side of the spectrum had men from all over the world joining the campaign, the other saw her receiving threats within half a day of making her speech, which left her raging. She went on to present a petition signed by four thousand people to the parliament of Uruguay requesting that women be allowed greater political participation. The young actress may be one of the world’s highest-paid actresses but she has often has voiced her opinion about the lack of female directors in Hollywood.

Whatever Watson chooses to do in the future, she has a head start on her peers. Apart from the Harry Potter series, Watson starred in films such as ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’, ‘This Is the End’, ‘Noah’, ‘Regression’ and before taking her break, Watson will be seen alongside John Boyega in the thriller, ‘The Circle’, and in the lead role as Belle for Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’. At 26, with a net worth of $60 million, Watson has put her money, talent and celebrity status to heartfelt use. She believes in equal rights for all humans, educating girls in the third world countries and is an actress extraordinaire, an inspiration to today’s generation and many more to come.

Cover photo: WireImages/ Getty Images