(CNN) — British actress, Emma Watson, made an impassioned plea to women around the world: “Don’t let anyone tell you what you can or cannot do, or cannot achieve.”
The emotional Harry Potter star took to the stage at Facebook’s headquarters in London on Sunday, March 8, to talk about gender equality as part of International Women’s Day celebrations.
CNN was among the live audience of around 150 people — and there were millions more watching the live stream across the world — the 24-year-old UN Goodwill Ambassador spoke about her own feminist journey and gave advice about some of the small things we can all do to encourage gender equality.
Emma’s Facebook moment
Of the dozens gathered at the event, the majority were bespectacled young men — not so unlike Harry Potter himself.
The last UN video she posted was watched 17 million times, could she top that with Sunday’s live stream?
Describing the “surreal” moment she gave a speech at U.N. headquarters, Watson said: “I really wanted to communicate that gender equality historically has been a woman’s movement but how it’s affecting men hasn’t been addressed.
“I wanted to address that in my speech… and give people a platform to make change,” she told moderator Greg James.
During the hour-long conversation Watson gave the audience a rare glimpse into her private life when explaining the difference between chivalry and sexism;
“I love having the door opened for me, isn’t that just polite? I love being taken for dinner, But I think the key is, would you then mind me opening the door for you? I took a guy out for dinner, I paid, I chose the restaurant and it was really awkward but we were able to talk about the awkwardness. Chivalry should be consensual. Just be willing to have that awkward conversation.”
“I get disturbed by this idea that men can’t cry,” she continued.
“They can’t express themselves and I think that’s the saddest thing in the world. Being able to express yourself is what makes you human — it’s not what makes you a girl.”
Watson then opened up about threats she received after her moving #HeForShe speech which she said made people close to her more aware of gender inequality.
“After I gave my speech in September there was a website set up threatening to release naked photos of me. And I knew it was a hoax, I knew the pictures didn’t exist. I think that was a wake up call to a lot of people that women are receiving threats like this. It really publicized something that was really negative. If they were trying to put me off — they did the opposite.”Watson said she’s been encouraged by the number of men who have embraced her cause.
“I read a letter of support from a 13-year-old boy that was equally as passionate as a CEO. It’s so overwhelming and humbling when men want to share their support.”
“I asked my younger sister: ‘What would be the one thing you’d want from boys in your life?’ She said: ‘I just want them to play with us.’ And I think that really translates at every level. We just want to be included. Some of the harshest criticism I have received in my life has come from women. This is about supporting each other too.”
She then talked about women who inspired her, focusing on her mother, Jacqueline, who she says was a huge influence as a single working mother and type one diabetic:
“She really encouraged me to be an individual. She wanted me to be my own person and said a bit of rebellion was good, she was actually thrilled when I got my first detention… I think I failed a Latin exam.”
Audience members then asked Watson questions about a range of topics including gender inequality in the film industry, leading Watson to highlight that only 7% of directors are female.
Another question read; ‘How can the #HeForShe campaign help the LGBT community?’
“#HeForShe is about men coming in to support women and feminine qualities because they are currently valued less, and I think femininity needs to be embraced wherever its found, we need to be embracing it. My specific mandate is to advocate for women and girls – I’m a U.N. goodwill ambassador for women.”
Answering questions submitted via Facebook, Watson said the recent lack of female representation at the Academy Awards showed that the fight for gender equality was far from over.
“Why are women not directing their own stories?” she said. “The human race is a bird — and it needs both its wings to fly. And at the moment one of its wings is clipped,” she said, paraphrasing famous American feminist, Gloria Steinem.
When asked what things we can all do to affect change, the actress said it wasn’t necessarily about grand actions — but small ones.
“It’s everyday, it’s individual, it’s on a case by case basis,” she said.
“Whether it’s speaking up or trying to change the way someone else thinks about an issue.”
In the audience, a man wearing Hogwarts jumper asked Watson about about the view that women should not be paid the same as men, as they are more likely to take maternity leave.
She answered: “I don’t think in the grand scheme of things [maternity leave] is going to hinder a woman being incredibly effective in her field, I think men should be equal partners in raising children there should be an assumption that having children is something that only affects women.
Those missing out on a place still got watch it live on Watson’s Facebook page.
Emma Watson: UN ambassador
The event followed her impassioned speech at the U.N. headquarters in New York last year, where she described her personal feminist journey.
She called for all men to “take up this mantle so that their daughters, sisters, and mothers can be free from prejudice,” at the HeForShe launch in September.
“Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong. It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum, instead of two sets of opposing ideals,” she said.
Almost 230,000 men and boys across the world have since joined the campaign, including U.S. President Barack Obama, and actors Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Matt Damon.
Watson’s open letter to Foxcatcher star Steve Carell, applauding him for wearing HeForShe cufflinks at the Oscars last month, also attracted huge coverage across social media.
To see Watson’s best moments as they happened see our live twitter feed @CNNIwomen and join the conversation.
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