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2014: Emma Watson's speech on gender equality
02:01 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Schoolboy in UK writes letter defending Emma Watson's speech at the UN

Letter goes viral after being published in London newspaper

Ed Holtom: "We're lucky to live in a Western world where women can speak out"

CNN  — 

A 15-year-old British schoolboy has struck a chord with his eloquent response to actress Emma Watson’s United Nations speech encouraging men to join in the fight for gender equality.

Ed Holtom’s letter, published in the Sunday Telegraph, was praised on social media for demonstrating an understanding of gender issues that many adults today don’t fully comprehend.

“If we want equality, it will take more effort than paying women the same as men, or giving women equal opportunities,” he wrote in his letter supporting Watson. “We must stop pressuring each other to fit stereotypes which more often than not leaves us feeling repressed and unable to express ourselves. We must not let gender define us.”

A student at St. Albans, an all-boy’s school in Hertfordshire outside London, Holtom said that boys and girls are unwittingly steered into confining gender roles.

“By using words such as ‘girly’ or ‘manly’ we inadvertently buy into gender stereotyping,” he wrote in the letter. “We play with toys designed for our gender, we play different sports based on gender, we often go to segregated schools.”

Holtom’s letter was republished by a handful of news sites and quickly gained traction on social media, where many commenters praised his views as unusually thoughtful for someone his age.

Nicholas Pegg, a British actor and writer, called the letter “magnificent” and posted a link to it on Twitter.

Actor-director Samuel West wrote on Twitter that Holtom “writes the sort of letter you want to read from today’s schoolboys, and tomorrow’s men.”

Reached Monday via Twitter, Holtom told CNN he is heartened by the response to his words.

“My life hasn’t really changed - at the moment things are pretty normal, apart from people giving such great support in response to the letter,” he said. “Emma hasn’t responded, she doesn’t have to. I didn’t write it for attention, I just wanted people to know I how I felt.”

Watson’s impassioned speech, delivered September 20 as part of her role as a goodwill ambassador for UN Women, drew attention for her remarks about the need for equality and for men to embrace feminism.

It also prompted a minor backlash, including a threat to leak alleged nude photos of the star. The threat was later revealed to be a hoax.

“Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong,” Watson told the UN. “It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum not as two opposing sets of ideals.”

In his letter to the Telegraph, Holtom said he agreed with everything Watson said and supports equal rights for women.

“We’re lucky to live in a Western world where women can speak out against stereotypes. It’s a privilege. Gender equality and feminism is not about ‘man-hating’ or the idea of ‘female supremacy.’ It is, by definition, the opposite,” he wrote.

“The definition of feminism is, ‘a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.’ It’s pretty simple really, and if you believe in those things, then you’re a feminist.”

Holtom also wrote in his letter that he was “disappointed” by how ignorant some of his classmates were about the gender issues Watson raised in her speech.

But in a Twitter message Monday to CNN, he said he hadn’t encountered many hard feelings so far from schoolmates.

“My classmates have reacted pretty well, it wasn’t really about anyone in particular - but I understand that some people could have misinterpreted it,” he said. “Overall, everyone I know has been really nice and supportive, it’s great that so many people agree. :)”