By EVITA MARCH, Federation University Australia
In less than a week since actor Emma Watson’s stirring United Nations speech on gender inequality, two big things have happened – but you’ve probably only heard about one of them.
The first, which has driven days of global headlines, is that the 24-year-old actor (best known for her role in Harry Potter films) soon copped a backlash, including what appeared to be an online threat to publish naked photos of her. That’s now been shown to be a complicated hoax; more on that and what it has revealed shortly.
The other big thing that’s happened has received far less attention, but it’s much more heartening.
In only a few days, more than 126,000 men and boys have pledged their support for the new HeforShe campaign to end gender inequality – beating the original target of 100,000 supporters.
You can see how many have signed up in your country on the site’s interactive map. The campaign’s male supporters include fellow actors Matt Damon, Patrick Stewart, Russell Crowe and Keifer Sutherland, and now thousands more from around the world.
Watson’s passionate and moving speech at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, above, has already been viewed more than 4 million times on YouTube. You can read it in full here, but highlights include:
I started questioning gender-based assumptions when at eight I was confused at being called ‘bossy’, because I wanted to direct the plays we would put on for our parents—but the boys were not. When I was 14, I started being sexualised by certain elements of the press. When at 15, my girlfriends started dropping out of their sports teams because they didn’t want to appear ‘muscly’.
Not limiting the speech to gender difficulties faced by only women, Watson described how gender stereotypes hurt men and boys too:
I’ve seen young men suffering from mental illness unable to ask for help for fear it would make them look less ‘macho’. In fact, in the UK suicide is the biggest killer of men between 20-49; eclipsing road accidents, cancer and coronary heart disease. I’ve seen men made fragile and insecure by a distorted sense of what constitutes male success. Men don’t have the benefits of equality either.
Watson’s speech won a standing ovation inside the UN and even greater applause beyond. But it wasn’t long before her strong stand on gender equality triggered a backlash.
A double hoax
Only a day after her speech, a mysterious website and a blog’s “news” story speculated that a hacker was about to publish naked photographs of Watson, just as happened recently to stars including Jennifer Lawrence.
That sparked a media frenzy.
The world watched as the website www.emmayouarenext.com counted down the hours to when purportedly private photos would be released. Just as disturbing as the website itself were many of the comments about it, including “That feminist bitch Emma is going to show the world she is as much of a whore as any woman”, and “She makes stupid feminist speeches at UN, and now her nudes will be online, HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH”.
Instead of talking about the content of her speech, social media was ablaze with outrage at hackers, particularly the image-based website 4chan, which appeared to be linked to the Watson attack site.