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Emma Watson on the Simple Way to Fight Gender Inequality

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Emma Watson kicked off HeForShe’s inaugural Arts Week in New York City Tuesday on International Women’s Day with a discussion about challenging gender norms.

Chirlane McCray, the First Lady of New York and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the Executive Director of UN Women, introduced the Harry Potter star alongside actor and director Forest Whitaker, who runs the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative.

“I think about the performing arts and how we perceive masculinity and have rigid definitions and ideas of a leading man and what a leading man can or can’t do or how he should or shouldn’t act,” Watson said. “Challenging these perceptions make the roles that each of us get to play more complex, more real, more authentic, they make our jobs more interesting and truthful.”

In Watson’s eyes, being an active bystander can help mitigate the difference between recognizing the problem and making a tangible change.

“Empowering people to know and think that it’s their role when they see something that isn’t right to say something about it, that’s how to be an active bystander,” she said. “Most men and women can name a moment in their lives when they were a witness to a man or a woman being treated unfairly because of gender and it just takes someone calling it out.”

Watson, who delivered a much-praised speech on gender equality at the U.N. in 2014, recently said she is taking a year off from acting to focus on gender studies and her feminist book club.


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