There’s a truly touching scene in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in which the character you played in the film, Hermione Granger, is consoled by her friends after being referred to as a “Mudblood” by Draco Malfoy. This particular scene is incredibly powerful, as it reveals the ways irrational discrimination and hateful language can lead to dehumanization. The use of pure-bloodedness as a metric for an individual’s worth is truly despicable; it is, in fact, emblematic of a cynical, antiquated mindset that values homogeneity and advocates violence against those who, through no fault of their own, happen to be different.
As I reread those pages, I can clearly see how this episode managed to influence Hermione’s thinking in later books in the series. Realizing that some would continue to judge her abilities based on an artificial and meaningless criterion, she became motivated to dispel the notion that, as a Muggle-born, her worth was less than that of a pure-blooded citizen.
In many ways, this scene from the second Harry Potter book bears a great deal of similarity to the struggles faced by the first-wave feminists who fought to guarantee women’s suffrage in the United States, Great Britain, and numerous other countries. It also bears a great deal of similarity to the trials faced by pro-life activists who work to protect unborn children from the horrors of abortion.
As someone who admires you a great deal, both as an actress and as a person, I want to thank you for your efforts in bringing awareness to the experiences of women in less-advantaged countries. At the same time, I want to discuss the importance of pro-life feminism, as well as the need to include those who oppose abortion in feminist circles. Last September, you delivered a speech at the United Nations in which you extolled the virtues of feminism and gender equality. For the most part, I found myself in agreement with much of what you said. You beautifully described the negative consequences of pigeonholing young girls with expectations that they conform to long-held stereotypes. Likewise, you pointed out the detrimental role that the media often plays in shaping girls’ ideas of how they ought to behave. However, there was one line you delivered that I couldn’t help but feel troubled by: “I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body (1)."
Theoretically, that statement could have been in reference to any number of things. It could have been a condemnation of rape and sexual assault; a denunciation of female genital mutilation; a criticism of society’s expectations regarding what women should be allowed to wear, or a declaration of support for the notion that women should not be objectified. And yet, I can’t help but feel that my discomfort was justified. After all, such language has customarily been associated with support for legalized abortion and the destruction of preborn human life. In many countries, this destruction specifically targets girls, and girls lose their lives to abortion at a rate that surpasses any other cause of death.
As someone who has become increasingly invested in the pro-life movement this past year, I have met a number of women (many of whom are millennials) who oppose the idea that abortion availability is necessary in order to ensure gender equality. In fact, they argue that abortion is symptomatic of a worldview that continues to subjugate women and their children, while demanding that they embrace violence in order to reach the same political footing as men.
Feminist history contains countless examples of intelligent, hardworking, and independent women who fought tirelessly not only for their rights, but also for the rights of their children. Elizabeth Cady Stanton recognized the patriarchal underpinnings of abortion; in a letter to Julia Ward Howe, she wrote, “When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit (2)." Stanton saw parallels between the devaluation of women and the devaluation of the preborn. She believed that, in arguing for the equal rights of women, women should not resort to the same violent tactics that men had employed in denying women their rights. Her colleague, Susan B. Anthony, agreed with her pro-life views, believing that abortion would “burden [a woman’s] conscience in life (3)." Yet Anthony also understood that men used—and continue to use—abortion to control women; she wrote that “oh, thrice guilty is he who…drove her to the desperation which impelled her to the crime (4)!" Other feminists felt the same way: Alice Paul said that “abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women (5)." and Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell eviscerated the application of the term “female physician” to abortionists, who “filled [her] with indignation, and awakened [her with] active antagonism” through their “gross perversion and destruction of motherhood.”
I, along with my pro-life feminist friends, absolutely believe that women should have the same rights as men. We believe that a woman should be allowed to vote, obtain an education, decide if she wants to get married, decide whom she wants to marry, dress however she wants, and pursue any career that she wants. But since, scientifically speaking, “fertilization (or conception) is the beginning of human life (6), we oppose abortion because we recognize that it deprives another individual of not only their right to their body, but also their right to life.
Feminism should be inclusive, and yet thousands of pro-life feminists are labeled as “anti-choice” and excluded from feminist circles because they oppose violence against society’s most vulnerable and most voiceless members. This past June, you retweeted an article from The Independent about actor Mark Ruffalo. For the most part, the piece focuses on Ruffalo’s support for feminism, but in its final paragraph, it segues into an account of how the actor penned an open letter arguing that “women were considered second-class citizens” because his mother was “forced to have an illegal abortion (7)." Second and third-wave feminists must understand that opposition to abortion is based on an opposition to violence, not support for the subjugation of women. Not only is such an acknowledgement necessary in order to ensure feminism’s commitment to intellectual honesty, but it also allows others to feel as if they are welcome in the feminist movement.
In addition, abortion runs contrary to feminism’s historic support for equality, compassion, respect for life, and opposition to violence. When feminists argue that abortion is empowering, they encourage desperate women to view dismemberment as the key to their liberation. When powerful people like Hillary Clinton, whom you referenced in your speech, and Lena Dunham, whom you have referred to as your “favorite person in the world (8)," meet with abortionists to offer them praise and serve as spokespeople for Planned Parenthood, they glamorize violence. When they write and star in television shows that refer to unborn children as “balls of cells” and treat abortion as a lighthearted matter to be joked about, they dehumanize those whom they regard as inconvenient. When they joke about aborting the royal baby, they trivialize the greatest human rights abuse of our time. Surely, feminism deserves better.
You once said, “If you stand for equality, then you’re a feminist. Sorry to tell you, you’re a feminist (9)." I agree. I believe that the only requirement to be a feminist should be credence to the notion that every human being has inherent value. No one should feel left out of the feminist movement because they logically extend that belief to preborn humans.
Just this past July, a video was released in which Planned Parenthood’s top doctor admitted that her organization was involved in the sale of organs stolen from aborted children. Feminists should be sounding the alarm on this revelation, as it transcends petty politics and demonstrates the tremendous damage that the abortion industry, in its single-minded pursuit of profit, has done to women. To be frank, “[i]f [abortion] were about women—if it were even, basically, about humans—reports of discarded babies in dumpsters, allegations of unsanitary clinic conditions, or horrifying videos of top doctors extolling the virtues of well-formed livers, wouldn’t exist (10)." Indeed, abortion deprives women of an ability that is uniquely theirs.
In becoming an avid member of the pro-life movement, I have had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with a number of women whose regard for all life is nothing short of remarkable. I regard these women as selfless individuals committed to life, nonviolence, and generosity. They support extending legal rights and personhood to preborn children. At the same time, they believe in helping pregnant women, especially those who are poor and disadvantaged. They believe that men should be actively involved in raising their children by providing financial and emotional support to pregnant mothers. These women subscribe to a belief in the consistent life ethic, a belief that all life should be protected from conception to natural death. These women include Aimee Murphy, Lisa Twigg, Mary Stroka, Maria Oswalt, and Rachel Peller, and I encourage you to reach out to them.
I also encourage you to engage with groups such as Feminists for Nonviolent Choices, Feminists for Life, New Wave Feminists, Secular Pro-Life, the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians, and (of course) Life Matters Journal. All of these groups defy traditional prolife stereotypes by welcoming people from all backgrounds, and they would be more than happy to explain their views to you. I applaud your support for gender equality and active engagement in feminism, and I hope that you will lead the charge in welcoming pro-life women (and men) to the cause.
Best of luck!
1.) “Emma Watson: Gender Equality is Your Issue Too.” UN Women. September 20, 2014. http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2014/9/emma-watson-gender-equality-is-your-issue-too.
2.) Cady Stanton, Elizabeth. Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Julia Ward Howe, October 16, 1873. Letter.
3.) Dannenfelser, Marjorie. “Susan B. Anthony: Pro-Life Feminist.” Faith Street. May 21, 2010. http://www. faithstreet.com/onfaith/2010/05/21/susan-b-anthony-pro-life-feminist/3470.
5.) Dannenfelser, Marjorie. “Early Suffragists.” Susan B. Anthony List. http://www.sba-list.org/movement/ notable-women/early-suffragists.
6.) “Unit 1: The First Week.” The Endowment for Human Development. July 15, 2015. http://www.ehd.org/ dev_article_unit1.php#fertilization.
7.) Nianias, Helen. “Mark Ruffalo Tells ‘Ignorant’ People Who Aren’t Feminists to ‘Kiss My A**.” The Independent. June 2, 2015. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/mark-ruffalo-tells-ignorant-peoplewho-arent-feminists-to-kiss-my-a-10291291.html.
8.) Rosenblum, Emma. “Emma Watson Talks Style, Dating, and Life After Harry Potter in Her October 2012 Glamour Interview.” Glamour. September 4, 2012. http://www.glamour.com/entertainment/blogs/ obsessed/2012/09/emma-watson-talks-style-dating.
9.) Mosbergen, Dominique. “‘If You Stand For Equality, Then You’re A Feminist’: 9 Great Quotes From Emma Watson’s Facebook Q&A.” The Huffington Post. March 9, 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost. com/2015/03/09/emma-watson-facebook-international-womens-day_n_6828780.html.
10.) Zanotti, Emily. “The Anti-Woman Abortion Industry.” The American Spectator. July 15, 2015. http:// spectator.org/articles/63460/anti-woman-abortion-industry.
Photo credit: David Shankbone, Flicker Creative Commons