Reading Between the Lines: The Lessons Adolescent Girls Learn Through Popular Young Adult Literature

  • Melissa Ames
  • Sarah Burcon


On 20 September 2014, Emma Watson, the newly elected United Nations (UN) Women Goodwill Ambassador, gave a speech at the UN headquarters to launch the ‘HeForShe’ Campaign, which sought to recruit one billion men as allies in the battle against inequality being fought by women around the globe. Watson, the actress most famous for her role as Hermione Granger in J. K. Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter’ series, spoke out against the ways in which feminism is framed as an anti-men movement, urging her listeners — men and women alike — to abandon the ‘us vs. them’ mentality that thwarts gender equality. The video of her speech went viral. Vanity Fair author Joanna Robinson called the speech ‘game-changing’ and noted that Watson’s role as the ‘universally adored heroine’ gave her ‘an automatic in with male and female millennials’, making it one of the rare cases ‘where an actor being conflated with their role might be a good thing.’1 But in the wake of the speech, other critics spoke out against the notion of Watson being the new face of feminism2 — another white, heterosexual face, many noted — and dismissed the campaign as simply another iteration of clicktivism likely to prompt little change. In an article for The Huffington Post, Neha Chandrachud wrote:

Liberal white feminism tends to cling to these seemingly iconic moments in which feminism briefly becomes more palatable, more easily sold to the masses. We should be weary of the long-term effectiveness of the #HeForShe campaign. Join the conversation with a hashtag! End global misogyny with an empty promise and a tweet.3


Young Adult Gender Norm Female Character Teenage Girl Female Author 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Melissa Ames and Sarah Burcon 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Melissa Ames
    • 1
  • Sarah Burcon
    • 2
  1. 1.Eastern Illinois UniversityUSA
  2. 2.University of MichiganUSA

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