If you’ve never gone to a Harry Potter midnight
movie premiere, or even better, the midnight book
release party at your local Barnes & Noble, you’ve
never encountered the die-hard, and entirely enamored
fan base that J.K. Rowling’s British brilliance created.
I attended all of these releases and, like many others,
have read the entire series multiple times. As if this
did not validate my love of the series, I also played
“Hedwig’s Theme” on piano in my fourth grade talent show,
while dressed up as Hermione. Furthermore, I am currently
tackling the task of reading the books in Italian — maybe
being dubbed a “Harry Potter nerd” doesn’t even cut it for
Though it’s been many years since I first read
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, my love for the
series and its set of iconic characters has not been at all
subdued. In fact, just this week, the respect I have for my
childhood role model Hermione Granger, now transformed into
my young adult role model, Emma Watson, has skyrocketed.
Bringing together two of the things I take most interest
in, Hermione and feminist issues, the United Nations Women’s
Conference asked Watson to speak on the topic of feminism and
the progress, or lack thereof, that has been made throughout
the world. In her speech Watson joked, “You may be wondering
who is this Harry Potter girl and what is she doing at the U.N.”
However, her question provides the answer to its inquiry. All
throughout the Harry Potter series, Watson’s character is an
example of what it means to be a feminist. From an impressively
young age, Hermione was assertive, strong-willed, fearless and
had a strong sense of self. She was the perfect role model for
any young girl, and continues to be one today. Watson was chosen
to be the face of the HeforShe Movement, and she embodies the best
of Hermione’s qualities in real life.
With Hermione Granger as my role model, she showed me that it
was more than okay to be an intelligent, assertive female, and
caused me to become a feminist at an incredibly young age. When I
was seven, I joined a baseball team and proved that even though I
was a girl, I could play just as well as, if not better than, the
boys. When I was 16, I finished the manuscript for my first novel.
I sent it to publishing houses for the first time that year, and
was told in response to create either a male or an androgynous
alias, because it would be easier for a supposed “male” writer to
break into the industry. As a girl and as a woman I’ve faced
adversity throughout my life because of the fact that I am a
female. And I will be the first to tell you why my gender will
never limit me.
Although attempts at improving equality of the sexes have
been made, equality has yet to be reached. In just minutes, Emma
provided the clearest explanation of the problems that feminists,
those who are afraid to declare themselves feminist, and those
who do not understand the term “feminist,” have been facing.
Watson stated eloquently, “I think it is right that I am paid the
same as my male counterparts… able to make decisions about my own
body… involved in the policies and decisions that will affect my
life… and that socially, I am afforded the same respect as men.”
To many, these statements are already believed to be true.
However, the disturbing and frightening reality is that in society
today, there is not one country in the world where all women can
expect to have these rights — the rights that many naively believe
to be natural human rights.
Until our society rejects double standards gender equality
will be impossible. Every time we call a girl “bossy” and a boy
“assertive,” we are normalizing double standards. Everytime we
complain a woman only got a promotion because of the way she
dresses and not the work she does, we take a step away from
equality. By raising the awareness of this issue, the U.N. can
get people to understand the severity of the fact that over half
of the world’s population is still struggling with receiving
their basic human rights.
When I was 18, my yearbook quote was the following mantra,
said by Eleanor Roosevelt, “you must do the thing you think you
cannot do.” I do not believe that there should be internal social
boundaries based on society’s expectations of us that limit what
females and males can do. I believe that all people have the
capacity to do extraordinary things, and that it is out of line
to tell someone that they cannot do something, especially just
because of his or her gender.
It is time for us to begin making the small changes so that
equality can stop being something that we strive for, and instead
something that we see in our daily lives. Personally, I’m tired
of waiting for these unjust social
boundaries to be lifted, and I am ready to experience the amazing
women and men in our society can do. We all have it in us — it is
time to start being extraordinary.
stay classy! xx
Previously published in The Fordham Ram.