Emma Watson
Emma Watson and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the HeForShe campaign launch Getty

Emma Watson has become the latest target of hackers who are threatening to publish a series of nude pictures of her at the end of the week, just days after the actress delivered a rousing speech on feminism as part of her role as United Nations women's goodwill ambassador.

Another round of private photos of female celebrities are circulating online in the second leak of hacked personal images, it emerged this week, in a continuation of the first hacking at the beginning of the month.

Nude photos of Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and dozens of other women were uploaded to online bulletin boards 4Chan and Reddit. In addition, a web page entitled Emma You Are Next, featuring an image of the Harry Potter star next to a countdown, appeared to have been created by a user of 4Chan. The page carries the threat: "Never forget, the biggest to come thus far."

According to US site Gawker, there were a series of since-deleted comments from forum users that indicated the timed photo leak was in response to Watson's speech launching the UN's He For She campaign.

"She makes stupid feminist speeches at UN and now her nudes will be online," one comment reportedly read.

But while the news of this vicious retaliation is shocking, it verifies just how vital the initiative for global gender equality really is. The He For She campaign is the first of its kind on this scale, and aims to enlist one billion boys and men around the world to become advocates for women's rights. The threats made against Watson hammer home the need for a worldwide dialogue to end inequality between men and women.

If we stop defining each other by what we are not and start defining ourselves by what we are — we can all be freer and this is what HeForShe is about. It’s about freedom.
Emma Watson (source unwomen.org)

Watson's speech was filled with a litany of legitimate, personal reasons as to why the movement is necessary. She described how she was sexualised as a teen and expressed her desire for women to treated – and paid – equally to men.

Her speech was watched by thousands, shared countless times via social media and so far, has encouraged over 60,000 men – and counting - to join the campaign in just a few days.

But a backlash against any kind of feminist movement is nothing new. Every time an op-ed article addresses an issue of women's rights, a tirade of abuse follows.

At best, they are classic tropes of the men's rights movement, which has endless success in littering the comment sections of websites and popping up on social media. They may be valid but off-point, and more often than not, they are simply peculiar.

At worst, though, they are ignorant and misogynistic – perhaps even containing threats of rape or murder. And along the same vein, when a female celebrity makes an impassioned, astute speech on feminism, she will no doubt receive a public backlash – or even worse, a threat to her personal security.

Watson previously spoke out against the publication of stolen photos after the first naked images of Jennifer Lawrence, tweeting that the accompanying abusive comments were even worse than seeing women's privacy violated online. And she is right. But however repugnant the situation is, it will only encourage the fight for gender equality.

There are always coordinated attempt to drown out the voices of women, whether it is with off-hand sexism or violent threats to an individual's personal safety or privacy. Revenge pornography –where sexually explicit, private photos are published online without consent – is another way of subjugating women and instilling fear. But, despite these setbacks, the focus of the equal rights movement remains solidly fixed on the goal.