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On Emma Watson’s Our Shared Shelf: How It Shaped My Perspective on Feminism

BY MPUR CHAN

Emma Watson graduated from Brown University with a major in English literature. Just like me. Well, I mean, I took English literature as my major, too, but in a different university. And Emma (yep, first name basis) likes reading books, just like me! We’re pretty much the same… Except she’s a UN Ambassador and uses her influence to create meaningful communities through books, like her book club.

It’s been three months since Emma announced  Our Shared Shelf, so maybe a lot of you already know about this Goodreads community. But I want to share with you my personal thoughts after joining the community and maybe convince those who don’t know about it to come and join us!

WHAT IS ‘OUR SHARED SHELF‘?

According to the community description, Emma had been reading a bunch of books and essays on equality as part of her work as the UN Women Goodwill ambassador, and she thought of sharing these titles with other readers.

“There is so much amazing stuff out there! Funny, inspiring, sad, thought-provoking, empowering! I’ve been discovering so much that, at times, I’ve felt like my head was about to explode… I decided to start a Feminist book club, as I want to share what I’m learning and hear your thoughts too.”

Every month, a book is selected then discussed during the last week. Since its launch in January, Our Shared Shelf has picked three books to be read together with the members. In January, we read My Life on The Road by Gloria Steinem, The Color Purple by Alice Walker in February and for March, we’re reading All About Love: New Vision by Bell Hooks.

If these titles haven’t caught your interest yet, know that Emma herself often posts questions, videos, quotes and comments in the group, which grows into an open discussion between the group members. The topics vary from women in political parties, feminism in many parts of the world, response to domestic violence, sexual assault, child marriage and abortion to why women are paid less than men for the same work.

As of writing, there are 121,405 members. If you fancy it, join and participate. Everyone is welcome!

How ‘Our Shared Shelf’ has affected my life

What I like the most about the group is that members share their knowledge and thoughts about feminism in this 21st century and how it affects our lives. I must admit I wasn’t interested in feminism at first; I’d rather choose psychoanalysis or post-colonialism. But, when I read the posts written by Emma and the community members, my perspective towards feminism changed.

What I dislike about bringing up feminism are the arguments it causes, because people often associate feminism as a war between men and women. (As most of us know, it’s not.) This cause for equality has been badly represented in the media. But I realize that the reason there are a lot of social misconceptions about feminism is due to the lack of understanding regarding various branches of feminism, such as liberal feminism, socialist feminism, cultural feminism, radical feminism, etc. And we have to respond it wisely by remembering the purpose of feminism itself.

To stand on feminism’s side, we have to start with our selves. Even simple steps such as planning what we’re gonna do after graduate, standing up to people who degrade us or other women and respecting other people and ourselves. It may not be easy at first but it will help in the road to equality.

The best way feminism can change our lives is to open society’s eyes, as what Emma is doing. Her speech at the UN exactly showed the real current matters regarding women and feminism. To me, feminism isn’t the battle of one sex against the other. Instead, it’s the battle of the individual’s right to remain an individual and not a representation of his or her gender or sex. Just like what Emma said in her speech for UN HeForShe campaign,

“Men — Gender equality is your issue too. 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 not as two opposing for ideals.”

So, are you interested in joining Our Shared Shelf? Or are you already a member? What do you think about it? Do you also think it changes the way you see the world? ☁

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