In 2010, the United Nations launched UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. Four years after being created, the organization peaked in popularity due to a powerful PR move: the launch of "HeForShe."
Even though UN Women launched "HeForShe" on the 8th of March, 2014, this campaign didn’t go viral until the 20th of September of that same year. It only took 12 minutes for Emma Watson to pronounce her famous speech at the UN Headquarters.
In her speech, Watson talked about the importance of believing that men and women are equal. She had perceived some prejudices around the word "feminist," and she'd like to help dismantle them. Watson also recognizes that her parents, mentors, and teachers have been "inadvertent feminists" and that she wouldn't have made it without them.
The impact of this speech on mass media was enormous. Many women around the world celebrated this act of advocacy. But there were also dissident voices that pointed out its lack of representativity. From a PR perspective, the campaign was brilliant. From an intersectional point of view, it was quite deficient.
Intersectional feminism focuses on the different types of oppression that can affect a woman's experience. Xenophobia, ableism, homophobia, and poverty are examples of circumstances that can impact women’s lives. And Watson, as a rich, white, western cis-gender girl, was not a representative advocate. Authors like Vidya Ramesh, from Cambridge University, called Emma Watson out for being a White Feminist.
Four years later, Watson published a long post in her Goodreads club's discussion forum, "Our Shared Shelf." The first book of 2018 was "Why I am no longer talking to white people about race," by Reni Eddo-Lodge. In her post , Emma looks back and shares some insights she's learned since reading her famous speech.
"When I gave my UN speech in 2015, so much of what I said was about the idea that "being a feminist is simple!" Easy! No problem! I have since learned that being a feminist is more than a single choice or decision. It's an interrogation of self. Every time I think I've peeled all the layers, there's another layer to peel. But, I also understand that the most difficult journeys are often the most worthwhile. And that this process cannot be done at anyone else's pace or speed."
In this same text, Watson explains how knowing Happy, a woman working for Mama Cash, helped her understand that feminism is a work-in-progress. Mama Cash is an organization that helps women, trans, and intersex people to fight for their rights. As Happy told Emma, it is essential to call others out and walk alongside them while doing the work. Everyone has their journey, and there is so much left to learn.
Watson's journey proves that learning is a constant task. Reviewing our privileges is a work-in-progress, and it won't always be a comfortable task. An open-minded approach to the experience of those who work in the Third Sector can be an excellent tool for this purpose. If you'd like to learn more about the work of feminist associations, you can do it here .