Emma Watson and Author Valerie Hudson Talk About Feminism and Gender Equality

In an interview published by Teen Vogue, feminist and Harry Potter actress Emma Watson talked to Valerie Hudson, who is a professor at Texas A&M University and the author of Sex and World Peace, about a diverse range of gender equality issues faced by women today. With years of experience in this field under both women’s belts, they also exchanged stories of injustices that they have encountered.

The interview opened with Watson and Hudson discussing the contents of Hudson’s book, Sex and World Peace, such as the book’s key message that the security of women is vital for the security of countries. Hudson elucidated the potential implications of these results:

We have difficulty even accepting women’s expertise and authority. Studies have shown that when a woman joins a largely male body or committee or whatever, that her expertise is discounted by fully 50%. So she may actually be the one with the most expertise in the room, but she’ll be processed by those around her, including women, as having half that.

Based on her research, Hudson also offered advice on what we can do to improve gender equality in our daily lives:

I challenge my students. I say, ‘You may not be the president of the United States at the moment, but you are interacting with members of the other sex. How are you treating them? Are you listening to them?’ I challenge my male students. I say, ‘When a woman is speaking at a table where you are and people are ignoring her, there are things that you can do to bring attention to what she’s saying, and retrain our brains to listen to women.’

Following that, they discussed the impact of the #MeToo movement around the world and the waves of change that the movement has sparked. While it has empowered many women with a voice to speak out about issues confronting them, Watson, who founded the HeForShe campaign, believed that more must be done to change men’s attitudes toward gender equality:

They say it to me in a way that’s like, ‘Look, I’m just being the realist, I’m just being realistic here.’ And I reply, ‘I don’t think you are, and it’s not really good enough! We can do better than that!’

Another important aspect of feminism raised was the lack of vocabulary for women to express their feelings and thoughts. Watson shared her experience with the British edition of Vogue magazine as an example of the importance of this:

It was less for me about the word but more about what it meant — just this idea that we need to reclaim language and space in order to express ourselves, because sometimes it’s really not there.

Moving on, the two women examined systemic and institutional barriers preventing women from achieving gender parity in many countries, such as legislation that favors men and the lack of women in the highest echelons of power. Hudson felt that the most pernicious problem is inadequate recourse for women who seek help:

I’ve come to decide that it’s actually the judicial branch where the rubber hits the road for women. You know, they’ve been raped and they need access to the judicial system — what kind of police officers are they meeting? What kind of prosecutors? What kind of judges? This really is where the law gets specifically applied to the lives of women.

Finally, Watson and Hudson looked back on the progress that feminism has made since eight years ago, when Sex and World Peace was first published. Hudson began by acknowledging that improvements have been made in the fight for equal rights for women:

Another thing that we’ve seen since the turn of the century is near parity in primary school enrollment for girls and boys — there used to be big gaps between boys and girls, but now there’s nearly parity. And lastly, at the turn of the century we had about 13% women in the national legislatures; now we’re about 24%, so we’ve almost doubled.

However, she also warned that, in many places, this progress has been alarmingly regressive.

We’re seeing movements to legalize polygamy in a number of central Asian nations. […] We also see worsening sex ratios. When I first started to study sex ratios in the countries of the world, there were maybe five nations that had seriously abnormal birth-sex ratios, and all of them were in Asia. Now we have 19 countries.

Watson then concluded the interview by underscoring the importance of the issue of feminism and the fact that it is a critical issue that needs to be highly prioritized:

Bloody hell, essentially a whole country of women is missing! […] Why is no one billboarding this? It’s so crazy. I often wish I could give people [Hudson’s] book and be like, ‘There’s some really good stuff in here.’ Because, the urgency of the issue just doesn’t seem to register with people. It’s like, ‘Oh, that’s a nice issue that’s very far down on the rung of important issues.’

Intrigued by the thought-provoking issues covered in the conversation? You can read the full transcript from Teen Vogue. Share your opinions below!