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Emma Watson has the right to speak without being told to die.

By KATE LEAVER

Yesterday, she made an extraordinary speech about feminism at the United Nations.

Today, Emma Watson has received vicious threats against her safety, her privacy, and her life.

It’s almost as if we asked the universe to neatly demonstrate why Emma Watson’s speech was important. Because the way Watson was savagely treated by men online and in real life? That’s just one reason WE. STILL. NEED. FEMINISM.

Within hours of Watson’s stirring, brave speech, she was publicly targeted by hackers threatening to expose naked photographs of her. “Ur Next, Emma Watson” began trending and sophisticated commentary like this started going viral: “She makes stupid feminist speeches at UN, and now her nudes will be online, HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH”. She was called a whore, among other things I do not wish to repeat.

More disturbingly still, vile things were written about her body and she was killed off by an elaborate death hoax that involved fake media coverage like this:

The tide of online hatred and slander that immediately followed an evidence-based, brave, important speech by a terrific young woman is vile and unacceptable. That’s obvious. It’s a gendered character assassination — and before you ask whether that would happen if a man had spoken to the UN about a global issue, case in point: Leonardo Di Caprio spoke about climate change today and there has been no such reaction.

Now, protecting Hollywood celebrities from online trolling is obviously not the #1 priority for global feminism. Emma Watson herself would not suggest that it is. There are impoverished women dying in developing countries because their basic rights are not protected. We cannot address some of the most appalling inequities of this world we live in without achieving gender equality. It’s one of the most urgent things we can do as a human race.

Since she spoke up about this very issue, Emma Watson has had brutal criticism from all angles. It’s not just mysoginists who have been targeting this 24-year-old woman. It’s feminists. It’s human rights activists. It’s academics.

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Last night, Mamamia ran a post by a smart young feminist, arguing that we should not be treating Watson’s speech as “earth-shattering”. Nothing she said was new or revolutionary; everything she said has been said before and thousands of women work hard every day to get those exact messages heard.

You know what? None of that matters. It doesn’t matter that Emma Watson repeated ideas about gender equality we should have heard before. What she did was extraordinary because in this fickle world of ours, we need a celebrity to endorse something before we as a global society take action. She used her fame to shine a spotlight on one of our most vital missions, and we cannot criticise her for that.

It’s what we need. Hearing vitally important stats and suggestions for change from a world-famous actress isn’t stupid or vapid or inappropriate. It’s the single most effective way we have for disseminating important ideas.

Emma Watson made a courageous, important decision to give that speech. She deserves the right to share that opinion without the threat of death, rape, humiliation, or crimes against her.

In the hideous aftermath of Watson’s speech, we need to stay strong. We need to stand by Emma Watson. We need to celebrate every damn thing she said into the loudspeaker of fame. We need to protect her and we need to spread her message until it’s heard.

Are you with me? Are you with Emma Watson? Are we in this fight for equality together?

Here are some of the men who stand with Emma:

 

Are you shocked by what’s happened to Emma Watson since she gave that speech?

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