More teenage girls are self-labelling as ‘feminist’ thanks to Emma Watson

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Amy Swales

With statistics back in April revealing nearly half of girls have tried to lose weight by the age of 17, while 40% said their appearance was influenced by social media, it’s refreshing to see that celebrities having a public platform can have a positive impact too.

New research released by National Citizen Service (NCS) says more teenage girls are self-labelling as ‘feminist’ than any other social identifier.

And those behind the survey have dubbed it the ‘Emma Watson Effect’ – as the Harry Potter star was also named the most influential celebrity among teens.

The NCS survey spoke to 1,000 teenagers aged 16 and 17 and found 29% of girls said they were feminist, with ‘intellectual’ the second most-popular label (19%) and a similar number describing themselves as a ‘bookworm’.

The survey notes that LGBT teens are more likely to identify as feminists – 40% of those questioned did, compared to 13% of heterosexual teens. It also found that white and Asian teens are significantly more likely to identify as feminists (19% and 15%, respectively) than black teens (5%).

Meanwhile, only 5% of boys questioned said they were feminist, with the top self-identifier being ‘gamer’, coming it at 39%, followed by ‘intellectual’ at 25%.

social media feminism

'Internet feminism' was cited as a possible reason for more engagement with teenagers

Actor Watson, known for speaking out on women’s rights, was named the most influential celebrity by both boys and girls – ranking above the likes of social media stars such as Zoella, Joe Wicks and the Kardashians, and dietary bloggers such as Deliciously Ella.

Asked about their admiration of Watson, respondents cited her feminism and willingness to speak out. One explained: “She uses the power and fame she gained from the Harry Potter series to speak about important issues like feminism.”

Another said: “She's a big feminist. She frequently speaks out on sexism and other discrimination issues such as racism and homophobia, and what she says really inspires me.”

NCS, an organisation which works on activities, projects and events for 15-17 year olds, said the results also showed girls are more likely than boys to be influenced by a famous person who encourages them to be themselves, gives them self-confidence and speaks out about their views on social issues.

Natasha Kizzie, director of marketing at NCS, told that the internet has played a part in giving issues airtime and bringing them to a teen audience: “The rise of internet feminism and increasingly politically engaged youth has brought these issues to the forefront of the news agenda, and the ‘Emma Watson effect’ has done brilliant things for the cause. She inspires young people to never limit their expectations of what they can achieve on the basis on their gender.  

“I am heartened by our findings, and I hope this increasing empowerment of young people continues.”

At a time when teenage girls are still bombarded with unrealistic societal expectations – even actually being told that anything over size 6 looks “fat” by headteachers – the findings are definitely encouraging.

Images: iStock / Rex Features


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Amy Swales

Amy Swales is a freelance writer who likes to eat, drink and talk about her dog. She will continue to plunder her own life and the lives of her loved ones for material in the name of comedy, catharsis and getting pictures of her dog on the internet.

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