Malala Yousafzai to Emma Watson: You inspired me to call myself a feminist

Malala Yousafzai and Emma Watson
Malala Yousafzai and Emma Watson

You may remember the massive tantrum the internet’s baby men threw after Emma Watson gave her famous speech on feminism to the United Nations a year ago.

Men’s Rights Activists and other haters of feminism declared that the #HeForShe initiative the Harry Potter star was promoting was little more than a misandrist effort to return to chivalry. They called her a “man hater.” They even attacked her for dating a rugby player.

And of course they put her down as a “first world feminist” focusing on trivial issues that only well-off white women could possibly care about. Of course, her detractors in the Men’s Rights movement don’t actually give a shit about third-world women and girls; their attacks on first-world feminists are mostly just an excuse to rant about the allegedly “pampered” and coddled women of the industrialized west.

“Emma Watson is typical feminist. Rich, pampered, and white,” one longtime MRA declared.

“This lumping together of many valid issues that women (and men of course) in the third world face with those of the privileged and pampered first is frankly obscene,” a commenter on A Voice for Men complained.

And on the Men’s Rights subreddit, another Watson anti-fan sneered that she was

a fucking uber-celebrity on a power-trip stoking her ego by claiming to speak for a group she doesn’t understand, at all. If she keeps this up she’s going to ruin her long term career by becoming divisive and toxic. The backlash is already beginning and it serves the idiot right.

These were some of the milder, er, critiques.

Now, there are certainly things to criticize about Watson’s feminism. But there is also something to be said for choosing Watson, an actress known for playing a beloved character in the Harry Potter films, as a goodwill ambassador to the non-feminists of the world.

Watson may not be able to speak for women in the third world, but it turns out that her message managed to speak to one young woman whose life has been the absolute opposite of pampered: Malala Yousafzai, the teenage Nobel Peace Prize winner who was famously shot in the face by a man trying to kill her and her crusade for girls’ education in Pakistan.

As the New York Times reports,

Malala Yousafzai told Emma Watson she decided to call herself a feminist after hearing her now famous speech at the UN, to launch the “He for She” campaign, which aims to encourage men to fight for women’s rights. “It has been a tricky word. When I heard it the first time I heard some negative responses and some positive ones. I hesitated in saying am I feminist or not?” she told Watson during an interview at a screening of the He Named Me Malala documentary at the Into Film Festival. “Then after hearing your speech I decided there’s no way and there’s nothing wrong by calling yourself a feminist. So I’m a feminist and we all should be a feminist because feminism is another word for equality.”

You can watch the entire interview below:


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5 years ago

Túpac Katari’s prophecy still applies

Loved the reference!

Evita quoted it once before she passed away, so a lot of people here assume the prophecy was hers.

I would normally not mind the appropriation, but the story of resistance of our native people is important and normally undervalued :/

Virtually Out of Touch
Virtually Out of Touch
5 years ago

“While feminists go “you’re privuleged/others have it worse so use your privilege to stop the violebce coming from like-privileged people, and to lift others up (for which you need to keep your privilege in check)”.

I would say, “you might be privileged but that does not invalidate your experience, please share it with me and I will help if I’m able”

5 years ago

Yeah, I think we have to look at EW as someone using the privilege she has to do what she can, rather than as some sort of global representative of feminism everywhere.

It’s absolutely necessary for people to point out the problematic aspects of what she said, how she said it, who she is etc. and I’ve learned a lot from the comments upthread. I just think that the solution for these deficiencies in EW is not for her to be quiet, but for more women’s voices to be heard. Different voices will reach different people.

Does anyone remember that Australian general who made a video laying down the law on sexual abuse within the ranks? I’m no cheerleader for the military, but that clip was viewed by hundreds of thousands of people who would never otherwise watch an explicitly feminist message. Is it a problem that they wouldn’t have watched the same video if it hadn’t been made by a tough, intimidating man? Of course, but at least they saw that feminist views can be held by the sort of person they admire.

5 years ago


I was referring specifically to what each group thinks a person should do in regards to their privileges.

Of course all people who were victimized in any way should be listened to, and helped to the extent of our possibilities ????


I think privilege and entitlement lead mean to the idea that if women say something that makes them feel guilty, then it must have been done with that purpose -and no other.

This is also true for people who are used to manipulating others: They will usually consider any emotion they feel must be caused in order to manipulate them, regardless of the topic at hand or what triggered an emotion in the first place.

I guess there’s also a load of projection in there.

5 years ago

It’s absolutely necessary for people to point out the problematic aspects of what she said, how she said it, who she is etc. and I’ve learned a lot from the comments upthread. I just think that the solution for these deficiencies in EW is not for her to be quiet, but for more women’s voices to be heard. Different voices will reach different people.

yes, exactly. But allow me to quote something I read elsewhere today on this very thing and continue to try and discuss some of the things about the use of language and politics, so it can be critically evaluated:

[Watson’s] message is flawed and unfortunate, as well. Telling men that they should care about gender inequality because of how much it hurts them, centralizes men and their well-being in a movement built by women for our survival in a world that degrades and dehumanizes us daily. This is problematic for the same reason telling white people that they should end racism because racism “holds us all back as a society, so eradicating it will help you, too,” is problematic.

Firstly, because even if that’s true, it does nothing to create solidarity. I have never met a white person who decided to take on anti-racism work because of the negative effects of racism on white people. Literally, never. And I don’t think I’ve ever met a man who genuinely supports feminist ideals because of the ways they benefit men first. If I did know people like this, I wouldn’t like them.

So, it appears to me that this person is assuming that because someone who is white and male, like myself, they cannot possibly be deriving the same (or any?) meaning from words like ‘feminism’. HOW can this person evaluate that assertion? HOW can they know what meaning another individual derives from such a concept? Ironically, they talk about “solidarity” but seem to be making unfounded assumptions based not only on things they do claim to think, but also on things they DON’T say. How about we take things that people say they believe at face value, until they prove themselves otherwise? This is particularly important in the context of politics, because one of the most powerful things I CAN do is vote according to my beliefs. People have their own lives, and many may find it difficult to do much beyond voting. That is open to criticism and incitement to do more. A person not deriving the exact meaning from a concept as someone else is not, especially because I have serious doubts that any two humans who have ever lived view the world in the same way.

James Haynes
5 years ago

Some critiques of Emma Watson stand true but as for men being harmed to a lesser degree than women by patriarchy, isn’t all that different from what Bell hooks writes.