"It was like something from a dream, I thought maybe I'd died," Watson said of her speech on gender equality to launch #HeForShe at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
In the five months since the gender equality campaign was launched, the response has been pretty amazing. Watson revealed that after the speech, which prompted over 1.2 billion social media conversations, she received a personal letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury. Several countries, companies and institutions have officially signed up for the #HeForShe campaign, including Sweden, the Netherlands, Sierra Leone, Tupperware, Unilever and Oxford University. However Watson stressed that the support and passion from individuals is just as valuable as these huge organisations. She revealed that she received a letter from a 13-year-old boy who was equally as passionate about gender equality as the CEO of Unilever.
The campaign is based on feminism and helping men become proud, vocal supporters of gender equality but "men are still a little fearful and confused [about] how to do this exactly," said Watson. She went on to say that it's not enough to ask men to support women, women really need to support one another, revealing that some of the harshest criticism she's ever received came from other women.
"[Many] people associate it with hating men, and that's really negative," said Watson. "I don't think that's what feminism is about at all — I think it's about something really positive."
Making small changes can really help make progress towards gender equality. "Telling girls and boys what they have to be from a young age can be so damaging," Watson said. She mentioned a BBC report that revealed girls aren't performing as well as boys in maths and science subjects at school and expressed concern that this is because girls feel if they excel in these subjects they'd be inherently less attractive. "We need to dispel that myth," she said.
Watson spoke publicly for the first time about the threats she received after her UN speech, revealing that within 12 hours of it being broadcast, a website had been set up containing threats to release naked images of her. Although she knew it was a hoax and that the pictures didn't exist, Watson was enraged. Some people close to her didn't think gender equality was that big of an issue, she confessed, until they saw that the minute she stood up and spoke on behalf of women's rights she was threatened and that's when they understood the urgency of this issue.
However she saw this as an opportunity to channel her anger into something positive and announced that the threats made her even more determined to carry on with her mission.
Watson spoke about gender inequality in her own industry, sharing the shocking statistics that only 7 percent of directors are women. Furthermore only 19.7 percent of writers, 2.2 percent of producers and 13 percent of executives are female. She attributed some of this to a lack of a sense of urgency around this issue. "[We think:] we have the vote, we're doing alright," she said. "But [gender inequality is one of] the biggest contributors to poverty, violence, and discrimination; it hinders progress all over the world."
Watson went on to share more shocking statistics: 85,000 women are raped every year in the U.K. Currently the gender pay gap in this country stands at 16 percent. Our parliament is 77 percent male.
"We're supposed to be one of the biggest, most progressive democracies in the world — and we're not," she declared.
When asked by James about the dichotomy between chivalry and sexism, Watson said she would definitely not be offended by a man holding a door open for her. "It's just a nice thing to do — it's polite," she said. "The key is, would you [as a man] mind if I opened the door for you?"
She also shared a story about taking a man out for dinner. She chose the restaurant and offered to pay but admitted that it was "really awkward and uncomfortable." However the positive was that they were "both willing to have the conversation." Ultimately, Watson added, "chivalry should be consensual and both parties should be feeling good about it."
"#HeForShe is about men supporting women and femininity and feminine qualities, because they are generally valued less," Watson said. "Femininity needs to be embraced wherever it's found, whether it's a man, a woman, or a person of non-conforming gender."
Stressing that the LGBT community should feel involved and included in the movement, she went on to share her dream for the future: "to work for UN Equality Agency, that gender equality would be so in the past that it didn't even exist. UN Equality Agency, full stop."
When asked about the gender pay gap and the fact that some people believe women shouldn't get paid the same as men because they take time off for maternity leave, Watson said she believed men should be equal partners in raising children. "Why should it only be women who get sidetracked by raising children?" she asked.
"I refuse to die before we have achieved gender equality," she declared, before receiving a standing ovation from the studio audience.
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