By Felicia Czochanski
If you’ve never gone to a Harry Potter midnight movie premiere, or even better, the midnight book release party at your local Barnes & Noble, you’ve neverw encountered the die-hard, and entirely enamored fan base that J.K. Rowling’s British brilliance created. I attended all of these releases and, like many others, have read the entire series multiple times. As if this did not validate my love of the series, I also played “Hedwig’s Theme” on piano in my fourth grade talent show, while dressed up as Hermione. Furthermore, I am currently tackling the task of reading the books in Italian — maybe being dubbed a “Harry Potter nerd” doesn’t even cut it for me.
Though it’s been many years since I first read Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, my love for the series and its set of iconic characters has not been at all subdued. In fact, just this week, the respect I have for my childhood role model Hermione Granger, now transformed into my young adult role model, Emma Watson, has skyrocketed.
Bringing together two of the things I take most interest in, Hermione and feminist issues, the United Nations Women’s Conference asked Watson to speak on the topic of feminism and the progress, or lack thereof, that has been made throughout the world. In her speech Watson joked, “You may be wondering who is this Harry Potter girl and what is she doing at the U.N.” However, her question provides the answer to its inquiry. All throughout the Harry Potter series, Watson’s character is an example of what it means to be a feminist. From an impressively young age, Hermione was assertive, strong-willed, fearless and had a strong sense of self. She was the perfect role model for any young girl, and continues to be one today. Watson was chosen to be the face of the HeforShe Movement, and she embodies the best of Hermione’s qualities in real life.
With Hermione Granger as my role model, she showed me that it was more than okay to be an intelligent, assertive female, and caused me to become a feminist at an incredibly young age. When I was seven, I joined a baseball team and proved that even though I was a girl, I could play just as well as, if not better than, the boys. When I was 16, I finished the manuscript for my first novel. I sent it to publishing houses for the first time that year, and was told in response to create either a male or an androgynous alias, because it would be easier for a supposed “male” writer to break into the industry. As a girl and as a woman I’ve faced adversity throughout my life because of the fact that I am a female. And I will be the first to tell you why my gender will never limit me.
Although attempts at improving equality of the sexes have been made, equality has yet to be reached. In just minutes, Emma provided the clearest explanation of the problems that feminists, those who are afraid to declare themselves feminist, and those who do not understand the term “feminist,” have been facing. Watson stated eloquently, “I think it is right that I am paid the same as my male counterparts… able to make decisions about my own body… involved in the policies and decisions that will affect my life… and that socially, I am afforded the same respect as men.” To many, these statements are already believed to be true. However, the disturbing and frightening reality is that in society today, there is not one country in the world where all women can expect to have these rights — the rights that many naively believe to be natural human rights.
Until our society rejects double standards gender equality will be impossible. Every time we call a girl “bossy” and a boy “assertive,” we are normalizing double standards. Everytime we complain a woman only got a promotion because of the way she dresses and not the work she does, we take a step away from equality. By raising the awareness of this issue, the U.N. can get people to understand the severity of the fact that over half of the world’s population is still struggling with receiving their basic human rights.
When I was 18, my yearbook quote was the following mantra, said by Eleanor Roosevelt, “you must do the thing you think you cannot do.” I do not believe that there should be internal social boundaries based on society’s expectations of us that limit what females and males can do. I believe that all people have the capacity to do extraordinary things, and that it is out of line to tell someone that they cannot do something, especially just because of his or her gender.
It is time for us to begin making the small changes so that equality can stop being something that we strive for, and instead something that we see in our daily lives. Personally, I’m tired of waiting for these unjust social boundaries to be lifted, and I am ready to experience the amazing things that women and men in our society can do. We all have it in us — it is time to start being extraordinary.
Felicia Czochanski, FCRH`17, is an undeclared major from Metuchen, New Jersey, and the Assistant Opinion Editor for The Fordham Ram.