On September 20, 2014, Harry Potter star Emma Watson stood up in front of the United Nations Headquarters to speak about her stance on gender inequality in a world that looks down upon the word "feminism."
In front of hundreds of the most powerful men and women in the world, this young woman presented her "HeforShe" campaign and stated, "my recent research has shown me that 'feminism' has become and unpopular word. Why has the word become such an uncomfortable one?"
Why is feminism a word with such negative connotations? As an adolescent, I realized how much of my beliefs rooted in feminist ideals. I watched as girls around me dropped out of their sports and leadership roles to become more girly, to not seem too aggressive, and to ultimately lose their confidence in themselves.
I was forced to suppress my feminist views when I was in high school, because even my girl friends disagreed with me, saying if I was going to be a feminist I shouldn't expect guys to be chivalrous, pay for dates or assume the usual male roles in a relationship.
But I was in high school, so my adolescent brain told me if I wanted a date to prom, I probably should keep these opinions to myself.
Luckily, as I became a college student, I realized how I am not alone at all in my stance on feminism. I came to realize that not only am I not alone, but this problem is bigger than I even imagined.
The fight to gain gender equality is that the word feminism has become synonymous with "man-hating, armpit hair-growing, liberal lunatic." When I tell the guys in my life that I am a feminist, I'm lucky if all I get in response is an eye roll.
This shouldn't be a word that is so taboo -- by definition it is the belief that women and men should have equal social, political and economic rights. Men and women both need to realize this; feminists are not fighting to gain an anti-male following, but to abolish the horrible stereotypes that women so often receive.
For me, the hardest part of this struggle to gain social equality is watching my girl friends use derogatory words about other women. "She's a total slut," or "Don't wear that, you'll look like a whore," are phrases thrown around so often that they have become a societal norm. Why do we, women who are struggling to become successful people, use these words(which were created by men to show ownership over other women) when referring to other women?
We are only putting down ourselves when we "slut shame," making it seem as though we are okay with being called "sluts" to the point that we will use it ourselves. There is no term to refer to male promiscuity, yet there are dozens of derogatory words to speak about sexually promiscuous women. Society views a sexually active guy as a real macho man, but a sexually active woman as a slut.
Feminism isn't about burning bras and refusing to shave your leg hair. It's about giving yourself or the women you care about the chance to be all that you/they can be without discrimination.
Although we live in one of the best time periods in history for women to coexist with men, there is still so much separation between genders. Thank you, Emma Watson, for bringing this issue to international attention, because these acts of feminism-hating, inequality and slut-shaming need to come to an end.
To seem Emma Watson's speech on her "HeforShe" campaign, click here.