Two years after the launch of the He For She campaign, actress and United Nations Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson continues apace with her feminist projects. A few days ago she spoke at the U.N. about campus safety, and today she wished bell hooks happy birthday on Twitter. She also contributed to a Global Goals video focused on women’s empowerment.
Global Goals, a nonprofit organization devoted to “sustainable development,” put together a video entitled “Hurdles,” which chronicles women’s achievements in gaining equality and points to just some of the work remaining. Watson provides the voiceover as we watch footage of female Olympians jumping hurdles. And, in keeping with the theme of physical feats via inanimate objects, Sia’s “Chandeliers” scores the video.
The video is well-intentioned, but the metaphor of jumping hurdles, not to mention the doubling down on athletic prowess, seems especially ableist in this context. We know how profoundly language figures when it comes to identifying systemic sexism and prejudice. Campaigns for equality demand particularly careful attention to word choice and image — after all, inclusivity is the paramount goal.