Emma Watson was appointed the U.N. Goodwill Ambassador for Gender Equality six months ago. Her first address to the General Assembly on Sept. 20 focused on feminism and launched HeForShe, a new campaign aimed at helping men and boys find an active place in the feminist movement, often criticized for excluding men.
Two days later, users on 4chan, an anonymous social media site, lashed out at Watson for advocating an end to misogyny and sexism, threatening to leak nude photos of the actress and ambassador. One commenter called feminism a “cancer”.
EmmaYouAreNext.com was posted in addition to the threats, signed with a 4chan logo, featuring a photo of the actress and a countdown, as well as a threatening message: “Never forget, the biggest to come so far.”
This behavior is part of rape culture. This reaction to a woman advocating for equality is an other example of how misogyny is an inherent part of rape culture. The threats are being made to try to take power away from Watson, who has inspired a generation as Hermione in the Harry Potter franchise, and now continues to inspire as a real life supporter of equality.
Augustana has been making efforts to reduce the impact of rape culture on campus. Speakers like Laci Green, “The Right Thing is the Smart Thing” bathroom poster campaign and other efforts by groups on campus to educate students about rape culture are only one facet of how rape culture impacts our lives.
We all are impacted when celebrities are threatened with sexualized threats, because it mirrors behavior that happens every day in our lives in smaller, more personal ways. A jealous ex threatening to release personal pictures or spread sexual rumors is rape culture behavior as well. By refusing to participate, or support the behavior, it sends the message that it is unacceptable, and it is not entertaining to violate another person.
In her speech to the United Nations, Watson said, “Having seen what I’ve seen, and haven been given the chance, I feel it is my responsibility to say something. Statesmen Edmund Burke said, ‘All it takes for the forces of evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing.’ In my nervousness for my speech, and in my moments of doubt, I told myself firmly, if not me, who? If not now, when?”
This is a powerful summary of the mindset needed to be an agent of change to stop oppressive systems like rape culture on Augustana’s campus, and in the world outside the Augie Bubble as well. We are all being given the chance, and it is up to individuals to take the responsibility.