St Albans schoolboy's response to Emma Watson's UN speech goes viral
PUBLISHED: 10:53 02 October 2014 | UPDATED: 11:08 02 October 2014
A St Albans schoolboy received international acclaim after his letter to a newspaper supporting feminism went viral.
Ed Holtom, 15, wrote a letter to the Daily Telegraph following actress Emma Watson’s United Nations speech about feminism.
After the letter was posted on the internet, it was then shared across the globe on social media and by countless news outlets.
Ed highlighted how he agreed with Emma Watson’s ‘HeforShe’ campaign, but was disappointed by the reaction of his classmates.
He said: “I recently had a religious studies lesson where we talked about gender and the role it plays in modern society, having watched Emma Watson’s speech about gender equality the night before and agreed with everything she said, I was disappointed by how ignorant some of the other boys in my class were.
“We’re lucky to live in a western world where women can speak out against stereotypes. It’s a privilege. Gender equality and feminism is not about ‘man-hating’ or the idea of ‘female supremacy’.
“It is, by definition, the opposite. The definition of feminism is, ‘a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.’ It’s pretty simple really, and if you believe in those things, then you’re a feminist.”
Ed, who attends an independent boys school in the area, spoke to the Herts Advertiser about the mammoth reaction to his letter.
“I am so happy that so many people have agreed with me and that I can really show people that Emma’s campaign is really working.
It’s kind of surreal to have all of this attention on social media.”
Ed, who formerly starred in a West End production of Oliver! and BBC’s Sherlock, added: “If I had the chance I would probably go back and re-phrase the first paragraph. The editing of it made it seem like I was attacking my classmates, which I absolutely wasn’t doing.
“The people who have disagreed with what I have written have not called me wrong, they have been really mature and respected everyone’s own views, which is really good.
“They’ve said ‘well done, I don’t totally agree with it, but well done for getting your message out there’.
“I understand that people have misinterpreted the letter, if I was reading it, I would think ‘oh, why is he having a go at his classmates?’. That was not the purpose of it at all.”
For now, Ed will continue with his studies with the hope of doing something creative in the future, “maybe something in journalism or marketing”, he said.
Read Ed’s unedited version of the letter:
“I recently had a religious studies lesson where we talked about gender and the role it plays in modern society, having watched Emma Watson’s speech about gender equality the night before and agreed with everything she said, I was disappointed by how ignorant some of the other boys in my class were (I attend an independent, all boys school in Hertfordshire). I felt compelled to write down my views of gender equality, although I’m not sure how well they would be received by people at my school, I wanted to share it somehow, so here it is.
“If We Really Want Equality”
We’re lucky to live in a western world where women can speak out against stereotypes. It’s a privilege. Gender equality and feminism is not about “man-hating” or the idea of “female supremacy”. It is, by definition, the opposite. The definition of feminism is, “a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.” It’s pretty simple really, and if you believe in those things, then you’re a feminist. Feminism can also be interpreted as a woman owning her sexuality, in the same way men do, wearing clothes that make her feel good about herself, or that show off her body, not for the attention of men, without being called a slut and with freedom from the threat of rape, because she wants to.
Recently we’ve been hearing about what it means to be “masculine” and what it means to be “feminine”. It means nothing, barring biological differences. By perceiving these two words as anything other than the description of a human’s genitalia, we perpetuate a stereotype which is nothing but harmful to all of us. By using words such as “girly” or “manly” we inadvertently buy into gender stereotyping whether we like it or not.
We live the gender stereotype without realising it, we have been born with it, we played with toys designed for our genders, we go to schools which are segregated, we play sports which other genders do not, and it takes some mindfulness for many people to even acknowledge its existence and the injustice it entails for both genders. If we want equality, it will take more effort than paying women the same as men, or giving women equal opportunities to men.
If we really want equality we must all make an active decision to abandon phrases such as “what it means to be masculine” and the like. If we really want equality we must try our best to ignore gender and stop competing with one another. We must stop comparing ourselves to each other, particularly other people of the same gender, because that leaves us with a feeling of insecurity and self doubt.
We must stop pressuring each other to fit with this stereotype which more often than not leaves us feeling repressed and unable to express ourselves. And most of all, if we really want equality, we need to stop caring. Stop caring about gender, stop caring about another person’s sexual preference, stop caring about how far someone fits in with the stereotype and stop caring, most of all, about how much we fit this stereotype, we must not let gender define us.