Watson's speech was out of place, as she apparently recognized: “You might be thinking, 'Who is this Harry Potter girl, and what is she doing speaking at the UN?' And, it’s a really good question. I’ve been asking myself the same thing.” A sweet, unassuming delivery from a brave, polished young actress is not enough to hide the unoriginal and problematic themes for both women and men within the address. Since it was delivered as if these themes had never been discussed before, and since it is given so much credence by U.N. Officials, Youtube watchers, and pundits, it is worthwhile to examine it against long-standing discussions on the matter.Share
“A real conversation must let men talk not only about feminist-approved topics," Young demands. Bringing this theme to the table as if it were revolutionary, without referencing any historic male efforts, suggests that it has not yet been done, or that it has been done ineffectively until Emma Watson and the U.N. did so. Extending “a formal invitation,” to men to join the discussion is not only trite and a bit patronizing, it is also unnecessary.
Men don’t need an invitation. Let’s extend that much to both their intelligence and their history.
One man, for example, already presented the idea to the U.N. nearly a decade ago: “My word of thanks to women thus becomes a heartfelt appeal that everyone, and in a special way States and international institutions, should make every effort to ensure that women regain full respect for their dignity and role.” That man was Pope St. John Paul II, in his June 29, 1995 “Letter to Women,” issued prior to the United Nations Fourth International Conference on Women, held in Beijing.
Institutions which have endured the test of time and the purification of fire have something to say on the matter. “In this vast domain of service, the Church's two-thousand-year history,” said the late pontiff, “for all its historical conditioning, has truly experienced the 'genius of woman.'”
Complementarity might be at the root of Watson’s speech, but we wouldn’t know it, and neither would she. Her lack of deference to older, wiser contributors to the discussion makes a truly new contribution impossible. Several good points are hinted at in the brief speech, but lines of logic are ambiguously glazed over, nullifying and ignoring the gravity of their potential fruition and ultimate importance. In fact, she ends up on a different path than the one on which she started. And then doesn’t tell us how she got there. (Read more.)