Emma Watson

watson_3053263bEmma Watson’s speech at the HeForShe event at the United Nations on Saturday was a ‘powerful’ ‘emotional’ speech that certainly thrusted the term ‘feminism’ into the limelight, where it stood looking shakily out at the audience and much like Watson, seemed unsure of exactly what it was doing there. 

There is not a (rational) woman in Britain today who does not believe we should have equal pay, who doesn’t believe we should have ownership over our own bodies and that we should be represented by governing bodies. These rights we fought for generations ago.

Am I the only person left wondering, what exactly Watson and the HeForShe campaign is bringing to the table?  

Men, argues Watson are the victims of gender inequality. Growing up, her male friends found it hard to express their ‘feelings,’ while at the tender age of 8, Watson suffered the trauma of being called ‘bossy’.

That’s it? If those are the biggest issues facing women in Britain today, then call me Davison and find me a horse to jump under. 

As much as I want to like Watson, as much as I applaud her bravery at broaching a difficult subject, I couldn’t help but groan at the lack of substance and relevance to the British woman today.

Last week I went to a talk by Laura Bates – founder of the Everyday Sexism Project. I went because I think it’s good to keep an open mind, and also because I’ve never experienced ‘everyday sexism’ and wondered if I just hadn’t noticed sexism on my doorstep.

Apart from a confusing realisation that I was experiencing less ‘sexism’ than many of the women in the room (where exactly is this bar where everyone is getting groped?) I was struck by  how unacademic Bowen’s argument was. She quotes the following statistics:

Men in the UK Parliament outnumber women 4/1. 

There are more men sitting in Parliament now than there have ever been women elected in the whole of history

Only one fifth of the House of Lords is made up of women 

4 out of 18 high court judges are women…and the list goes on.

These figures were presented to support gender inequality, ignoring the one glaringly obvious difference between men and women: women have the babies! 

The latest estimate of women of childbearing age who will never have a baby is 25%. This means that 75% of us (women) will at some point have to take a career break, or stop working entirely.

Demanding equality based on numbers alone is therefore a moot point. Even in a world where equal numbers of women and men are hired, only 25% of women will progress at the same rate as men. 

It’s not men that are to blame; it’s not law either. The reason why it is unlikely there will ever be the same number of women as men in top positions is simply biology.

But let’s for a minute imagine a world where all women didn’t take time out to have children. Should we then have an equal split in terms of numbers? unlikely. 

It is only since 1919 that women were not legally disqualified from holding a civil or judicial post or office. 

It is only since 1876 that universities we open to the women of Britain, and even then women were not granted the same status as men.  

So instead of looking at the glass half empty, we should be proud of all we’ve achieved in this very short time, and continue to encourage the freedom that allows us to, as Watson says ‘define who we are.’

The feminist movement has granted us the freedom to choose, but not everyone in the UK is afforded that freedom.

It is only this year that CEFM (Child, Early and Forced Marriage) was made illegal in the UK. 

In 2012, the FMU (Forced Marriage Unit) advised 1,485 cases of possible forced marriage and whilst the number is dropping, even one case is a case too many.

More than half of the victims FMU dealt with were under 21.  One in eight were under the age of 16. The youngest case was aged two.

We, as feminists should focus our attention on women who for social or religious reasons, are not yet free from oppression. Real, every day oppression. Who are forced into marriage, who are tortured with FGM, who are stopped from attending higher education institutions.

These are the freedoms we should all be fighting for.

Feminism is not a dirty word. But unacademic, substance-less rants will do little to convince sceptics it is any more than a silly ladies tea party. 

As for a future where men are sensitive and in touch with their feelings… hats off to you Emma Watson if you work that one out!


Siena Dexter is a creative copywriter at Proximity Worldwide. She has an MA in Ancient History from UCL and specialised in social anthropology in the ancient world.


  1. Elizabeth McLoughlin says:

    Great piece darling x

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