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Malala Says She’s Changed Her Mind on Feminism

She says Emma Watson’s “He For She” speech pushed her to reevalulate her position.

In a conversation with Emma Watson, an actress most well known for playing a nerdy teenage witch, Malala Yousefzai revealed that she has recently reconsidered her rejection of the “feminist” label. And, she says, Watson’s He For She campaign speech had something to do with it:

“This word ‘feminism’, it has been a very tricky word. When I heard it the first time I heard some negative responses and some positive ones. I hesitated in saying am I feminist or not? Then after hearing your speech, when you said, if not now, when? If not me, who? I decided… there’s nothing wrong by calling yourself a feminist. So I’m a feminist and we all should be a feminist because feminism is another word for equality.”

Last year, in an interview with Ronan Farrow, Yousefzai hesitated to answer a question about whether she identified as a feminist. “Well, I fight for women’s rights… and I believe everyone has equal rights as men have,” she said. It’s an understandable response from someone who surely grew up hearing “feminist” rhetoric justify a war against her homeland. Feminism comes in many forms! Sometimes it used to legitimize unjust wars. Sometimes it excludes women of color. Sometimes it excludes trans women. Yousefzai, like many of us, is learning that feminism is as diverse and varied as women are.

But it’s not true that Watson “made” Yousefzai a feminist. Yousefzai’s work, which is to provide children around the world with access to education, has always been feminist work. Gender equity has always been part and parcel of her mission. And it’s something she will continue to work towards, she says.

“Some time people feel like I’ve got a Nobel Peace Prize, and the book, and the film, and there’s nothing else that I need,” she told Watson. “But people fail to understand that my goal, which is to see every child going to school, hasn’t been achieved yet.”

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