UN Ambassador = Popularity Status?
At the beginning of July, a few friends and I were discussing Emma Watson’s new position as UN Goodwill Ambassador. In reality, the conversation was half spent searching for what a Goodwill Ambassador was, followed by the dissection of whether Ms. Watson, sans celebrity status, is suited for the position.According to the organization’s website, a Goodwill Ambassador “promotes empowerment of young women” and acts as an advocate for the HeForShe campaign that promotes gender equality.What you may not know is that Watson has led humanitarian efforts in Zamibia and Bangladesh promoting women’s education. She also recently graduated from Brown University with her bachelor’s degree in English Literature.However, on the more obvious side, she’s a world-famous actress with an evolving sense of high fashion.Despite her contributions, my friends and I agreed that there seemed to be a lack of qualifications for the position other than her popularity with the masses.Watson is not the only celebrity to become a UN Ambassador. Angelina Jolie has embarked on at least 40 field missions as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Her work as a UN Ambassador has been admirable to say the least, but most importantly inspiring change. Perhaps Watson, as a mega-star, will inspire change as well.Watson recently embarked on her first “mission,” sending out a tweet with the hashtag #direnkahkaha meaning “resist laughter” that was re-tweeted over 7,000 times. The hashtag is a recent backlash against Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, who in a speech said that women should not “laugh out loud.”The speech was delivered during a celebration for the end of Ramadan. The Deputy Prime Minister insisted that his comments also applied to young men as well, but women received exclusive comments about their moral conduct.“A woman will know what is haram and not haram,” he said in his speech (“haram” means forbidden).“She will not laugh out loud in public. She will not be inviting in her attitudes and will protect her chasteness.”As a result, women have taken pictures of themselves laughing boisterously in the face of his comments, using the hashtags on social media.While over 7,000 re-tweets is impressive, is that an accurate merit for praise?Perhaps Watson was taking the smallest of baby-steps into the political / social atmosphere she has now become a brand for. Or, maybe the social media tactic was in reality an intelligent first step for the actress to make her debut as Goodwill Ambassador.The point my friends and I couldn’t seem to reach was whether or not she suited the position outside of her celebrity status. While graduating from Brown University is worthy of praise, she’s not the only student to graduate from Brown with a bachelor’s degree.On the positive side, another young woman was holding a leadership position that supported and encouraged gender equality. On the down side, it was disheartening to think that the actress, as stellar as her clothes are, was picked merely for her popularity rating while other young women work to prove themselves worthy of such a position.In a statement, Watson said, “Women’s rights are something so inextricably linked with who I am, so deeply personal and rooted in my life that I can’t imagine an opportunity more exciting…I still have so much to learn, but as I progress I hope to bring more of my individual knowledge, experience and awareness to this role.”We hope so too.