By now everyone will have heard, or at least heard of, Emma Watson's speech launching the UN Women's HeForShe campaign. Gender equality and sexual and reproductive rights now have a glamorous whiff of scandal about them. Why? Because the pervading internet response was not one of solidarity, abhorrence or even mild concern. Instead internet trolls threatened to release stolen, private and, one assumes, nude images of the 24 year-old starlet on 4chan (an online message board).Nice.
Naturally, this is a totally unprecedented response. Or is it the fine doing of a PR genius? Arguably, Watson's speech has had its intended effect and THEN some. Rather than prompting "ask yourself if not me, who, if not, now when" the misogynistic and downright weird reaction to the launch has turned the mirror back on society in a magnificent tour de force. The only way it could have worked out better is if Emma Watson had concocted it all herself.
Faced with this insane internet response, any sane person (male or female) will feel aghast and downright disgusted. This is more than some cheap celebrity shaming. It has morphed into a darker beast intent on undermining a basic human right: the right to make decisions over our own bodies and lives without fear or discrimination.
Whilst this wrath is still fresh, I would like to lead readers towards Amnesty International global campaign on sexual and reproductive rights that predates these pathetic shenanigans. In true Amnesty style the "My Body My Rights" campaign takes people right back to basics:
"A woman is refused contraception because she doesn't have her husband's permission. A man is harassed by police because he's gay. A teenager is denied a life-saving termination because abortion is illegal in her country. Whoever you are, wherever you live, you have the right to live without fear, violence or discrimination. It's your body. Know your rights. Act now."
The campaign also boasts some incredible images of "hyperreal" body paintings by the Tokyo-based artist Hikaru Cho. Whilst Cho's paintings and Watson's speech differ stylistically, both women map out the global using the personal. For Cho, each individual body spells out a human right denied to thousands. Watson's speech takes us on a journey from personal experiences of gender inequality to our global reality where women are still not equal to men. In their own ways, both women reveal that there is a long way to go before we can claim to live in an equal society. As Watson says, "if we do nothing it will take 75 years, or for me to be nearly a hundred before women can expect to be paid the same as men for the same work. 15.5 million girls will be married in the next 16 years as children. And at current rates it won't be until 2086 before all rural African girls will be able to receive a secondary education."
Thanks, all of you trolls, for having helped get that message out. We couldn't have done it without you!